Archive for Saturday, December 27, 2008

Workouts may help ward off dementia

KU research finds exercise can protect against Alzheimer’s

December 27, 2008


Help wanted in exercise clinical trial

Kansas University researchers are looking at the link between aerobic exercise and cognitive function. They are seeking participants for a new clinical trial. Participants must be older than 70, mostly sedentary and cognitively healthy. For more information on the study or to participate, call the Alzheimer’s and Memory Program at (913) 588-0555. The study will be conducted in Johnson County.

Read more about research

A Kansas University professor is encouraged by research showing that aerobic exercise could stave off the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We know that exercise and fitness avoids major disability, but it also seems to be protective for cognitive function,” said David K. Johnson, assistant professor of psychology and assistant research scientist in gerontology at Kansas University.

Johnson has participated in neuroimaging studies performed by the Alzheimer’s and Memory Program at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan., and the Neuropsychology and Aging Laboratory at KU’s Lawrence campus. The work, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging, demonstrated the positive effects of aerobic workouts in seniors, regardless of whether they had a cognitive disorder.

Others involved in the research included Dr. Jeffrey Burns, of KU Medical Center, and Joseph Donnelly, director of the Energy Balance Lab.

The researchers have studied about 150 seniors who are between the ages of 65 and 95 for the past five years. The studies have involved memory tests and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests.

Johnson said exercise may be the medicine for improving memory.

“Exercise seems to be better than any crossword puzzle or other mental activity by 2 to 3 times at least,” Johnson said.

And, he said, seniors don’t have to be track stars to see the results.

“We are really trying to get people to not be sedentary — to get out and off the couch,” Johnson said. “Most older adults do not lead an active enough lifestyle, so it’s just about increasing that amount of activity and trying to get it so that they walk farther than they currently do and to have a greater ability to walk up the stairs without losing their breath.”

New research

Although promising, research tying cardiovascular health to cognitive function is still in early stages. In a new clinical trial, Johnson hopes to establish a more exact understanding of “dose response.” He aims to determine what forms of aerobic exercise are best for seniors, how much exercise is most helpful and whether there is a point of diminishing returns for an exercise prescription.

KU is seeking seniors ages 70 and older to participate in the new study. They are looking for people who are mostly sedentary, but cognitively healthy.

“We are going to try to increase their aerobic fitness and do some cognitive testing over a period a little longer than a year,” Johnson said.

He added, “If we can help improve cognition while people are healthy, that also would mean a delay in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults significantly. Hopefully, many years.”

About 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. Johnson said the illness affects one in 10 people older than age 75, and the prevalence doubles every five years after that. So, it’s 1 in 5 by age 80.

Clinical trial participant

That’s why Betty Rafferty, 80, Shawnee, has participated in KU’s Alzheimer’s study for the past five years and encourages others to follow her footsteps.

“I think it’s beneficial, and I think there has to be some answers because I think Alzheimer’s is becoming more of an epidemic-type thing,” she said. “It seems like more and more people all of the time are having it. A lot of friends of mine have the problem, and I just think it’s really important to do this.”

Rafferty also watched her father suffer.

“My father had dementia, and toward the end of life I felt like maybe it was Alzheimer’s and I saw how awful it was and how frustrated he got.”

After hearing about the studies on a radio show, Rafferty called and offered help. She said the testing requires little time. In the beginning, she went in for testing twice a year, but now it’s only once. It includes MRIs, a lumbar test, a urinalysis and memory tests.

“It is not a lot of time consumed, and the people over there are incredible,” she said. “It honestly gives you just a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and helping. I am just real proud that I am a part of it.”

Rafferty thinks that the clinical trial also has helped improve her memory.

“Personally, I really feel like that my memory is better now than it was before I went over because I am more aware of how to really look at things,” she said. “Instead of thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t remember’ and just quit, now, I really concentrate and bring the memory back.”


Robert Rauktis 8 years, 11 months ago

Amazing how it requires funding of an experiment to discover the obvious so that it can be ignored by the usual American slobs. Ohhh...I know..."the gym costs too much." All that's is needed for a workout is gravity and motivation. I forgot intelligence but that is the Darwinian factor in this equation.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 11 months ago

I hate to exercise. I have medical problems that make it painful. So, my doctor wrote an order for Kreider Rehab, and whining every foot of the way I went. I am sixty-three I told my therapist, I'm old, I can't do anything. See those women over there, she answered, they are in their nineties and come here three times a week. That did it. Suddenly, I was not about to be outdone by an old woman. I move. How many calories do you use up tying? I surely must lose a pound a day on these posts. Well, gotta go eat, make it up. A nice thick nutterfluffer sandwich, the official sandwich of Boston. If you want the recipe let me know. Darwin got no influence with me, I am a Wallace woman though and though.

Leslie Swearingen 8 years, 11 months ago

Pooh I says, Pooh, Pooh! In these uncertain times it is going to be the ones who have stored fat, some of it on a very shapely bottom, who are going to survive while the skinny ones fall by the wayside. Demented fool, eh? Well, sonny boy, I was a conservative Republican until Bush. Now I am a liberal Democrat. Probably just a coincidence. Okay, Buggy-poo, I will go down to the exercise room, get on the treadmill and work off some of the rage I am building up. Liberals are big on rage you know.

notajayhawk 8 years, 11 months ago

Now, if I could only remember to exercise...

Godot 8 years, 11 months ago

Do you want to gracefully recline, or do you want to plop into your chair? Do you want to simply rise from a sitting position, or do you want to heave, ho, huff and puff, finally requiring a lift chair to stand? Do you want to bend over and pick up that thing you dropped on the floor, or do you want to consign that item to the "forever lost" in your mind? Do you want to climb up on a stool to reach the top shelf, or do you want to forget that those items never existed? Do you want to be in charge of your life, or do you want to depend on others to help you with your basic dailiy needs of living? The decision is yours. Get out of bed, get off the couch, and move. Move, baby, move..

jonas_opines 8 years, 11 months ago

Hmm. . . it seems like Bugpoo has come out of the closet, so to speak, since the last time I paid attention and they were trying to be faux-respectful and decent. Interesting.

notajayhawk 8 years, 11 months ago

bndairdundat (Anonymous) says… "Studies show that for every hour you exercise you can add up to 1 hour to the end of your life..."Which pretty much makes it a wash, since you've already used that hour.

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