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Exercise May Reduce Alzheimer's Risk

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Exercise as simple as walking the dog or jogging could minimize your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or delay its progression if it begins, according to a new study from The Archives of Neurology.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis studied 201 adults, ages 45 to 88, who were part of a continuing study at the university’s The Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center. While some participants had a family history of the disease, none initially showed clinical symptoms of Alzheimer's, reported The New York Times.

Then scientists measured their levels of APOE-e4, a gene involved in cholesterol metabolism that increases a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's by 15 times, according to an editorial published last year in The British Journal of Sports Medicine. That is, unless they exercised regularly.

Those who reported walking or jogging for at least 30 minutes five times a week had plaque accumulation in the brain similar to that of volunteers who were e4-negative, the Times reported. Essentially, working out helped APOE-e4 gene carriers reduce their inherited risk for developing Alzheimer's.

“The good news is that we found that activity levels, which are potentially modifiable, could have an impact” on plaque accumulation, and thus presumably Alzheimer’s, in people genetically predisposed to the condition, Dr. Head told the Times.

On the flip side, people in the study who lead an inactive lifestyle seemed to be accelerating their accumulation of amyloid plaques, and thus heightening their risk for developing Alzheimer's.