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Researchers find exercise might stave off dementia

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If someone told you exercise could save your brain from dementia or decline, would that be enough for you to get moving?

Exercise has so many benefits there isn’t enough time to list them all. But one benefit to those of us who are aging gracefully could be avoiding cognitive decline. That’s enough for me! If we could all age and keep our marbles, too, that would be terrific!

 In a study done on mice at the University of California, San Francisco, headed up by Dr. Saul Villeda, a certain protein was found to be the key. Old and young mice that exercised for six weeks had their blood transferred to older mice that did not exercise at all.

The outcome was great for the sedentary rats. They created more neurons in their brains, and their brains performed at a greater capacity regarding their memories.

Once researchers delved deeper into these results, they found that a protein found in the liver, called Gpld1, may be responsible. A greater amount of this protein equates to better cognitive ability, according to Villeda.

“Through this protein, the liver is responding to physical activity and telling the old brain to get young,” Villeda said. “This is a remarkable example of liver-to-brain communication that, to the best of our knowledge, no one knew existed. It makes me wonder what else we have been missing in neuroscience by largely ignoring the dramatic effects other organs might have on the brain, and vice versa.”

At the UCSF Memory and Aging Center, researchers found aging adults who exercise regularly seem to have more Gpld1 and therefore better cognitive health.

According to the center, the most common type of dementia under the age of 65 is frontotemporal dementia. This is a degenerative disease that can interrupt personalities, language and movement. Doctors and researchers there agree that if exercise was a drug, they would be prescribing it to all their patients.

Our lifestyles have so much to do with our present health but also our future health. Laying the groundwork or the foundation now for a healthier future is imperative. Hopefully you have already started building that foundation. If not, what are you waiting for?

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer. She is fitness director for the YMCA of Calhoun County. Her “Fitness over 50” column appears the third weekend of each month.