. Physical activity predicts gray matter volume in late adulthood: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Neurology. 2010 Oct 19;75(16):1415-22. PubMed.

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  1. I am very delighted to further understand that exercise can help preserve gray matter and thus may help prevent Alzheimer's disease in older people. This is particularly critical to populations at greatest lifetime risk for development of AD. Everywhere we turn, we hear information about the benefits of exercise. From building stronger bones and muscles to reducing the risk of heart and muscular diseases and diabetes mellitus. The effects of physical exercise on general health are certainly far ranging. In fact, a growing body of research is demonstrating that physical exercise is good for our brains. Recent research has found a link between physical exercise and the central nervous system: Exercise has shown positive effects on a wide range of brain health markers (White, 2005). In general, exercise improves the heart's ability to pump blood and increases the natural ability of blood to carry oxygen to cells throughout the body. With exercise, blood circulation to the brain is thus increased and the brain receives more oxygen and glucose, both of which are crucial to brain function. The brain is the body's most active organ, and it consumes the most energy (i.e., between 20 and 30 percent of the body's total) (Bloor, 2005). Exercise also appears to have profound effects on specific molecular levels involved in the regulation of neuroplasticity. Hence, there is the added benefit of keeping your brain healthy, that is, to lead to an increase in cognition and memory.

    Despite such declines in cognitive and motor processes during the course of aging in people with HD, recent findings suggest that physical exercise can minimize some, but not all, kinds of cognitive decline. A recent study showed that older adults who exercised throughout life had less brain tissue loss and performed significantly better on cognitive tests than adults who exercised infrequently (Stanford’s Huntington's Disease Project, 2006). It is important to note that this research and many other recent studies on exercise and cognitive function only show correlation, but not necessarily prove causation. I agree very much that longitudinal evidence on exercise and gray matter is critical to understanding the effect of exercise on gray matter and white matter in the brain, particularly in the frontal lobe, temporal lobe, and parietal lobe. In addition, stress leads to the release of various neurochemicals and hormones (Leserman et al., 2000). Prolonged exposure to stress hormones is detrimental to the health and survival of nerve cells, and thus cognitive function will be affected. Therefore, exercise, stress, and other physical or environmental factors can be some important factors to be researched for improvement of cognitive and memory functions, as well as for prevention of AD.

    References: See also Stanford’s Huntington Disease Project (2006). Advanced Stages of Huntington's Disease Caregivers Handbook: Exercise and Fitness. See website.

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    . Impact of stressful life events, depression, social support, coping, and cortisol on progression to AIDS. Am J Psychiatry. 2000 Aug;157(8):1221-8. PubMed.

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