03:24am Sunday 24 September 2017

Moderate to Intense Exercise May Protect the Brain

“These ‘silent strokes’ are more significant than the name implies,
because they have been associated with an increased risk of falls and
impaired mobility, memory problems and even dementia, as well as
stroke,” said study author Joshua Z. Willey, MD, MS, of Columbia
University in New York and a member of the American Academy of
Neurology. The research was also completed at the Univerisy of Miami in
Florida. “Encouraging older people to take part in moderate to intense
exercise may be an important strategy for keeping their brains healthy.”

The study involved 1,238 people who had never had a stroke. Participants
completed a questionnaire about how often and how intensely they
exercised at the beginning of the study and then had MRI scans of their
brains an average of six years later, when they were an average of 70
years old.

A total of 43 percent of the participants reported that they had no
regular exercise; 36 percent engaged in regular light exercise, such as
golf, walking, bowling or dancing; and 21 percent engaged in regular
moderate to intense exercise, such as hiking, tennis, swimming, biking,
jogging or racquetball.

The brain scans showed that 197 of the participants, or 16 percent, had
small brain lesions, or infarcts, called silent strokes. People who
engaged in moderate to intense exercise were 40 percent less likely to
have the silent strokes than people who did no regular exercise. The
results remained the same after the researchers took into account other
vascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and
smoking. There was no difference between those who engaged in light
exercise and those who did not exercise.

“Of course, light exercise has many other beneficial effects, and these
results should not discourage people from doing light exercise,” Willey
said.

The study also showed that the benefit of moderate to intense exercise
on brain health was not apparent for people with Medicaid or no health
insurance. People who exercised regularly at a moderate to intense level
who had Medicaid or no health insurance were no less likely to have
silent infarcts than people who did no regular exercise. “It may be that
the overall life difficulties for people with no insurance or on
Medicaid lessens the protective effect of regular exercise,” Willey
said.

The study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 24,000
neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting
the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a
doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing
disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease,
stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease
and epilepsy.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit http://www.aan.com.

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