Hard data from MRI’s reveal that individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s show a significant amount of brain atrophy in the areas of the hippocampus, parietal region, and temporal cortex. The mechanism by which exercise can slow brain atrophy during normal aging is that it helps to maintain the size of the hippocampus. As is widely known, individuals with Alzheimer’s have a reduced hippocampus. This means that individuals who exercise less will have more brain atrophy when compared to individuals who exercise more.
Exercise has been shown to slow brain atrophy as it may help aid in the growth of neurons in the brain. This is evidenced by studies that indicate that an increase of blood flow in the brain helps retain its size. The decrease of the brain is associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, exercising causes muscles to contract, which causes IGF-1’s to be released into the bloodstream and, essentially, into the brain. Once IGF-1 reaches the brain, it then becomes a neurotransmitter and helps stimulate the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
Through exercise the body builds BDNF, which helps with activities that stimulate mental activity by causing the neurons to branch out and create connections between them. In turn, changes that occur in these synapses between the neuro-pathways are beneficial, as it allows the brain to be stimulated, thus reducing atrophy, along with creating a greater capacity for the retention of information. Essentially, exercise aids in the process of neuroplasticity and helps improve the overall mental mechanisms.
Additionally, the level or intensity of exercise has been linked to the reduction of the expression of Apo-e4 gene, which aids in decreasing the beta-amyloid plaque found throughout the body. Furthermore, exercise has been also linked to increase the length of telomeres. The lengthening of telomeres has additionally been linked with slowing down the aging process. Lastly, exercising regularly can help increase the amount of blood that reaches the brain and allows for a rich nourishment of oxygen and nutrients to these cells. By helping nourish these hormones and cells in the brain, exercise reduces the amino-acids that damage the part of the brain that deal with memory, as it prevents the brain from decreasing in size.
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