With Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia becoming increasingly frequent for our population, researchers are working overtime to attempt coming up with a cure, or at least a way to diminish the diseases’ effects. As such, when they come upon something that might help which eventually proves ineffectual, there’s some obvious disappointment. So, a team of researchers investigating the cognitive impairing illness reached the conclusion that Alzheimer’s pathology occurs regardless of intellectual activity.
Sound of mind and body
A number of studies have been getting conflicting results lately regarding the benefits of mental and physical exercise in regards to various forms of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s. Some studies claimed that they helped, while others were vehement in their denial of efficiency.
As it turns out, both answers might be right in some way. The idea around the controversy is that while physical and mental exercise in your middle age, as well as late in life can, in fact, postpone the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. What they don’t do, sadly, is to postpone the physical effects marking the onset of the illness.
There are actual changes going on in your brain when you start developing the disease, changes which so far can’t really be stopped or delayed. These changes revolve around the depositing of amyloid plaques in the brain, tau protein tangles, brain shrinkage followed by inflammation, and the eventual death of brain cells.
The Mayo Clinic study
Performed by the Mayo Clinic’s Prashanthi Vemuri and her colleagues from Minnesota, the study looked at the data from over 400 participants aged 70 and older. None of them suffered from any form of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, although 53 of them did experience some decline regarding their mental abilities.
The over 400 participants were divided into two groups, depending on their levels of education – those with 14 years or more spent in the school system, and those with less. They were then all scanned for signs of dementia and asked several questions about mental and physical levels of activity.
Sadly, the results of the test were overwhelmingly negative, except for one particular group. Despite symptoms manifesting slightly later for those exercising their minds and bodies, the physical effects, particularly the deposit of amyloid plaques were not slowed down in the slightest.
For the group I mentioned before, however, the results were actually overwhelmingly positive. About 20% of the population carries the APOE4 gene, responsible for the easier onset of Alzheimer’s. For this particular group, the levels of amyloid plaques seemed to be about 30% lower for the subjects that exercised their minds regularly than for those that didn’t.
Despite this study coming up with negative results, it still managed to give some valuable information about possible ways from helping APOE4 carriers live a slightly more normal life.
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