Physical activity may prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by lowering levels of a toxic protein in the blood and brain, Perth scientists have found.
Belinda Brown and a group of researchers from Edith Cowan University and McCusker Alzheimer’s Research Foundation found that individuals undertaking higher levels of physical activity had lower levels of beta-amyloid, the protein that causes brain cell death in Alzheimer’s.
“The toxic protein causes cell death, which leads to brain shrinkage and is found in high levels in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. We found that individuals participating in higher levels of physical activity had lower levels of this protein,” says Belinda, the study’s lead author.
The study, which involved 550 healthy patients over 60 years old, also showed that individuals with a higher genetic risk of Alzheimer’s disease received the greatest benefit from physical activity, with reduced toxic protein levels in their brains.
There are an estimated 35.6 million people currently living with dementia worldwide and this number is expected to quadruple by 2050. With Alzheimer’s disease the leading cause of dementia and with no cure available, interest has turned toward lifestyle factors that may prevent the onset of the disease.
Previous research has suggested a link between physical activity and a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease; however, little is understood about the driving force behind this association.