According to the Alzheimer’s research foundation, regular exercise can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of Dementia by 50%.
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, with age and genetics, as the main factors causing this disease.
The risk of Alzheimer is not limited to old age, it can start in the brain long before the symptoms are detected, often in middle age.
Physical inactivity or sedentary lifestyle, overweight, hypertension and diabetes can be risk factors.
However, brain-healthy life style can protect you against cognitive decline.
For many years the scientists thought that the brain was fixed and couldn’t adapt or change after childhood.
With better imaging technology scientists have discovered Neuroplasticity, the lifelong capacity of the brain to change and rewire itself, regardless of age.
Neuroplasticity happens continually as you learn and memorize new data, practice a new skill, a new emotion.
The brain may begin to lose sharpness of memory and powers of reasoning early, and if it deteriorates you may be more likely to develop some form of dementia in later life.
Memory problems can range from simply forgetting where you left your car keys to major disease like Alzheimer’s disease and other kinds of dementia.
Forgetting is a very common part of daily life, you may not remember where you kept things.
Unless the signs are extreme and persistent, they may not be indicators of Dementia or other memory impairing illness.
Exercise and brain are directly linked.
Physical Exercise can improve Neuroplasticity in the brain.
The brain is made up of billions of neurons(nerve cells) that communicate with one another through electrical impulses or by sending neurochemical signals to one another.
The number of neurons is constantly changing as new neurons are being generated and old neurons are dying, a process called neurogenesis.
This is constantly happening throughout individual’s life.
The protein molecule responsible for regulating these processes of cell birth and cell death is known as BDNF(Brain Derived Neutrofic Factor). It keeps the neurons flourishing and strong.
When neuron obtains an adequate amount of this protein, it survives, while neurons that do not receive enough do not survive. The survival of neurons depends on the levels of BDNF in the brain.
Neurogenesis occurs in Hippocampus, a grey structure in the centre of the brain. It plays an important role in the formation of memory, learning, mood and emotion.
High levels of BDNF is important for memory capacity.
Decreased levels of BDNF have been associated with disorders like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders.
However, higher levels of the protein molecules are associated with improved cognitive functioning and short and long term memory.
Low circulating BDNF levels have also been associated with a wide range of neuropsychiatric disorders including depression, bipolar disorder etc.
Exercise and Alzheimer's disease.
The incident of Alzheimer’s disease is growing.
Alzheimer disease represents 60 -80% of cases of dementia, which is huge. Insufficient production of BDNF, limits the growth and maturation of new nerve cells to connect with each other and transmit information.
You may progressively forget everything, a stage where you are no longer able to care for yourself. That is the stage one is afraid of.
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease.
Early Detection and prevention is crucial.
Brain autopsy is quite a late stage.
What can you do to prevent?
Increase your BDNF.
Research has found that rigorous exercise such as aerobics increases BDNF levels in your brain that stimulates and regulates the growth of new neurons, and thus improves cognitive function of the brain and also increases the size of hippocampus that may otherwise start shrinking as you reach middle age.
High intensity, long duration exercises offer the greatest probability of significant BDNF elevation.
Aerobic exercise boosts BDNF in the brain. BDNF is a guardian protein. It not only helps in the survival of the existing neurons but promotes the growth of new neurons.
The ideal exercise plan should involve a combination of cardio exercise and strength training.Build muscles to pump-up brain and include balance and coordination exercises.
Many of you must be struggling, to get out of the sedentary living, inspite of knowing the great reasons to exercise.
You need a right mindset and a start approach.
You may be facing practical concerns like poor health that can make it more challenging, but the biggest barriers are mental, and so you give up. You all have been there at some point.
Be kind to yourself instead of feeling negative, take the plunge, start slow but be consistent. You are bound to get motivated.
So don’t beat yourself up about your current fitness level.
Two, fifteen minute workouts a day can be just as effective.
The ideal recommended duration is to reach at least 150 minutes activity per week.
Choose activities that make you happy and confident.
Doing new challenging brain activities can be great to boost memory, like learning a new language etc.
Other ways to increase your BDNF.
A well balanced diet is the key.
Excessive calorie diet containing saturated fats and concentrated sugars can negatively impact BDNF, leading to reduced BDNF levels. ( Check the link to know more about saturated Fats : Heart health: An Alert! Things you must know )
Chronic stress decreases the production of BDNF in your brain. It is very important to practice activities that de-stress you.
Meditation can greatly help to calm the mind.
Start by meditating for 5 minutes every morning.
Sleep plays an important role. When you sleep your brain flushes out the toxins to avoid buildup.
Sleep loss can result in higher stress leading to mental disorder.
People suffering from insomnia show symptoms of low levels of BDNF.
With a few well-placed daily habits, you can produce more BDNF and empower your brain.
You can stop looking for easy exercises, instead, choose more intense form of exercise and get comfortable with it, intense exercises work better for you.
If you can, you must.
If you have something coming on you don’t be a victim, instead work upon it.
Even if walls come closing on you, leverage that opportunity. Find ways to help yourself, your experience may help many more.