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How to Outrun Your Death Risk from Alzheimer's

Alissa Sauer
By Alissa SauerFebruary 17, 2016

A new study shows that running at least 15 miles per week can reduce your death risk from Alzheimer’s disease.

Learn more about this disease and how lifestyle factors play an important role in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s.

Study Concludes Runners Have Reduced Death Risk from Alzheimer’s

A recent study that evaluated more than 153,000 runners and walkers for over 12 years concluded that runners are at a reduced risk of dying from Alzheimer’s.

Over the course of 12 years, 175 participants in the study died from the disease. Researchers found that runners who clocked more than 15.3 miles each week were 40% less likely to die from Alzheimer’s. Walkers also experienced a reduction in risk provided they expended the same energy as the runners did weekly, which means they needed to walk 50% further at a 12 minute mile pace and walk for a longer period of time than the runners. It is important to note that this amount of exercise is almost twice the amount of the current exercise recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In addition to the exercise factor, researchers noted that participants who ate at least three pieces of fruit a day lowered their risk of death from Alzheimer’s by 60% when compared to those who ate one piece or no fruit daily. The study also found that participants who took cholesterol lowering drugs also reduced their risk of death from Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s Prevention Through Exercise

As more research comes to light about Alzheimer’s prevention, it appears that lifestyle choices are more important than ever when fighting the neurodegenerative disease. Paul Williams, a staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, believes that vigorous exercise can preserve brain volume which may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. He stated:

“Exercise seems to prevent the shrinkage [in the brain] that occurs with age.”

Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer’s Association said that the data about running and Alzheimer’s does echo previous studies and said the strength of the newest study is it’s large number of participants. She did caution that the participants were exercisers and not necessarily representative of the general population.

Increasing Evidence Shows Running Prevents Alzheimer’s

Laura D. Baker, Ph.D., an associate professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, recently presented study results confirming previous research that showed exercise could prevent Alzheimer’s.

Baker’s six-month study included participants who had mild cognitive impairment with memory loss, and revealed that those who exercised at an elevated heart rate for 30 minutes, four times a week, improved their cognition and had decreased levels of the tau protein.

No currently approved drug has had that effect.

Baker says, “We’ve been trying all these medications, but so far, we have none that can treat disease in the pre-dementia phase.”

Have you or a loved one made any lifestyle changes like running, to combat Alzheimer’s? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

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Alissa Sauer

Alissa Sauer

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