When my mother first showed signs of dementia she was falling down almost daily. Then she fell and broke her finger. My mother who a year earlier could walk 15 blocks without any real problem could no longer walk a block. I knew I had to do something. While I was trying to decide what to do her health care provider (Humana) began offering a free membership to a health club (Gold’s Gym). I enrolled her in Gold’s and the Silver Sneakers program. She stopped falling. Once I realized that it was her brain and not her ability to walk, I started putting her on the treadmill. Four years later my mother is walking very slow and holding my hand very tight when she walks. Her brain is sending her all kinds of false messages. Here is the good news, she has not fallen once in these four years. An amazing result for a 92 year old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
As some of you know, I am a big proponent of exercise and I believe this is a necessary component of staving off the dreaded effects of Alzheimer’s.
Getting a lot of exercise may help slow brain shrinkage in people with early Alzheimer’s disease, a preliminary study suggests.
Analysis found that participants who were more physically fit had less brain shrinkage than less-fit participants. However, they didn’t do significantly better on tests for mental performance.
That was a surprise, but maybe the study had too few patients to make an effect show up in the statistical analysis, said Dr. Jeffrey Burns, one of the study’s authors.
He also stressed that the work is only a starting point for exploring whether exercise and physical fitness can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. The study can’t prove an effect because the participants were evaluated only once rather than repeatedly over time, he said.
While brains shrink with normal aging, the rate is doubled in people with Alzheimer’s, he said.
Burns, who directs the Alzheimer and Memory Program at the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, reports the work with colleagues in Tuesday’s issue of the journal Neurology.
The study included 57 people with early Alzheimer’s. Their physical fitness was assessed by measuring their peak oxygen demand while on a treadmill, and brain shrinkage was estimated by MRI scans.
Dr. Sam Gandy, who chairs the medical and scientific advisory council of the Alzheimer’s Association, said the result fits in with previous indications that things people do to protect heart health can also pay off for the brain.