Exercise can keep dementia at bay, even if it’s in your genes

Regular exercise may stave off Alzheimer’s – even in those whose genes put them in the dementia danger zone. Being active at least three times a week stops the brain from shrinking, a study of men and women in their 60s, 70s and 80s found. Even those with the APOE-e4 gene were protected by brisk walking, jogging, swimming and cycling, it was discovered.

The APOE-e4 gene is carried by up to 30 per cent of the population. It is thought to increase the risk of Alzheimer’s tenfold.

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DNA will develop the disease. Experts say the findings have ‘tremendous implications’ in treating the condition. The brain normally shrinks with age, with the hippocampus – the brain’s memory hub – particularly vulnerable in those at genetic risk of dementia.

Researchers at the University of Maryland, in the US, measured the brain size of four groups of pensioners at the start and end of the 18-month study. The amount of exercise they did was monitored and they were tested for the APOE-e4 gene. The only brain shrinkage occurred in those with the gene who did little or no exercise. Those with the gene who were at least moderately physically active three times a week or more were protected, the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience reports.

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