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Any Exercise May Cut Alzheimer's Risk at Any Age

Simple Household Chores, Active Lifestyle May Lower Alzheimer's Risk
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

April 18, 2012 -- Daily physical activity may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease and mental decline even in people older than 80, according to a new report in Neurology.

And it's not just walking, running, or other exercises that count. Tasks like washing dishes, cooking, playing cards, and even moving a wheelchair with a person's arms count as physical activity and can help lower risk for Alzheimer's disease.

"This shows there is something we can do now that can be associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease," says Richard Isaacson, MD. He is an associate professor of clinical neurology and the director of the Alzheimer's division at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Isaacson reviewed the new findings for WebMD.

Lowering Risk for Alzheimer's Disease With Exercise

Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia. Symptoms including serious memory loss, confusion, and mood changes that develop gradually and worsen with time. According to the Alzheimer's Association, risks for developing Alzheimer's disease include advanced age and family history.

Isaacson has a strong family history of the disease, and he is focused on uncovering ways to prevent its development. The new findings back up the advice Isaacson gives to patients and support what he does in his own life. "I run three or four times a week and just ran a half-marathon," he says. "I also mix it up with cross-training and racquetball and tennis."

In the study, researchers asked 716 older individuals without dementia to wear a device called an actigraph that monitors activity for 10 days. This is one of the study's strong points, as people don't always report activity accurately. Participants were age 82 on average. All physical activity was recorded. Individuals also were also given a battery of mental tests each year to measure memory and thinking abilities.

Active Lifestyle Reduces Dementia Risk

During about 3.5 years of follow-up, 71 people developed Alzheimer's disease. Those who were in the bottom 10% for daily physical activity were more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease as those in the top 10%, the study shows.

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