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Exercising to delay dementia symptoms

Australian researchers will monitor the brains of people taking part in high-intensity and moderate-intensity exercise to determine which type delays the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms.

Dr Belinda Brown from Murdoch University said a lot of research has evaluated physical activity at one point in life and followed up with people a decade or two later to check on symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease but experts can now use new technology to take a more immediate look at what’s going on in the brain.

“We can now use PET scanning on people to measure levels of amyloid and tau, which are two proteins that accumulate in the brain to cause Alzheimer’s disease,” Brown said.

“This has enabled us to begin to understand how these proteins are connected to the disease by looking at people at different stages in life and finding associations with their levels of physical activity.”

Brown has already explored the impact of exercise on the ageing brain. She said the research is gathering evidence that exercise is delaying the onset of symptoms through a slower rate of amyloid and tau build up.

“We have recently completed a study on older adults who did not display any symptoms of the disease and we showed that individuals who exercised more had lower levels of tau present.

“We have also examined a group of 30 to 40 year olds with a rare genetic predisposition for Alzheimer’s disease, and found an association between higher levels of physical activity and slower rate of amyloid build up in the brain.

“Our next stage is to establish what type of activity is of most benefit to an ageing brain.”

Brown is looking for generally healthy men and women without a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease aged between 60 and 80 years to participate in the study.

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