Exercise, Socializing May Boost Protein That Protects Against Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease results when a protein fragment, which is known as beta amyloid accumulates in the cells of the brain. This fragment forms hard, insoluble plaques which obstruct cerebral function slowly. In healthy brains, beta amyloid is broken down and eradicated.
According to a new study, a protein in the human brain can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This protein can be boosted by simple things such as socializing and exercising.
A gene known as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, abbreviated as BDNF encodes this protein. Researchers have found that elderly people who have high levels of BDNF gene function have a fifty percent lower chance of loss of thinking capacity and memory when compared with the seniors with lower levels of BDNF.
The best thing about the study is that it shows that BDNF, which plays a role in the survival of brain cells can protect against dementia.
Researchers agree that BDNF protects the brain even if it may have the tangles and plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. In a study on the effect of BDNF, the researchers followed five hundred and thirty-five people of the average age of eighty-one, until death.
In about six years, the researchers tested the memory and thinking skills of the participants every year. After death, they examined the levels of BDNF in the brain and compared the two sets of results to discover how the BDNF levels can be associated with a decline in thinking skills and memory.
The results showed that even if the participants with very high levels of BDNF had numerous tangles and plaques, their mental decline was low.
Some researchers have viewed the results of these studies more cautiously because they show a relationship between BDNF and slow mental declines, but not that the protein is the cause of the slow down.
However, they have concluded that the studies can be a step in thinking how the course of Alzheimer’s disease can be changed.
The drugs available in the market, which are designed to treat Alzheimer’s disease, are not that effective. If new medicines are introduced to raise the levels of BDNF, they may reduce the rate of decline in mental function associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
If further research is conducted, there is a possibility that there will be a new approach to treating age-related disorders. Traditionally, researchers have been searching for ways to treat tangles and plaques in the brain and other complications of Alzheimer’s disease, but this has not been so successful.
If the levels of BDNF in the brain are increased, this may slow down the rate of mental decline even if it is not possible to get rid of the pathology of Alzheimer’s in the brain.
According to studies, there are some factors that can boost BDNF levels. Some of them include education, social interaction and having a purpose in life.
These factors may offer a certain level of protection against the pathology of Alzheimer’s. Exercise is known to increase BDNF levels in the blood, but research has not established that there is a relationship between BDNF protein levels in the brain and in the blood.
Exercise is a great way to boost levels of BDNF in the brain. Studies carried out on male college students who had a sedentary lifestyle showed that high-intensity exercises boosted both their memories and BDNF levels.
This test has also been carried out in rats. BNDF levels in the nerve cells of rats that exercised increased and were sustained for several weeks. Low-intensity exercise in rats is more effective than high-intensity training when it comes to increasing BDNF.
This is consistent with evidence in normal rats, which indicates that low-intensity exercise improves synaptic plasticity better than high-intensity exercises. Therefore, people who engage in low-intensity exercises can increase their BNDF levels.
According to research, the brain continues reorganizing itself by forming new neural connections throughout a person’s life. The chemicals that help to control and stimulate neurogenesis are referred to as neurotrophins, and BDNF is one of the most active of these chemicals.
In the brain, BDNF is active in the cortex, hippocampus, and forebrain. These areas are vital to memory, learning, and higher thinking. Therefore, BDNF is essential for long-term memory. It is also expressed in the kidneys, motor neurons, the prostate, saliva and the retina.
BDNF is also known to play a role in neuroplasticity, which enables nerve cells of the brain to compensate for changes in the environment, new situations or injury. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form new neural pathways, and it is also referred to as cortical mapping.
BDNF also supports the survival of existing neurons and encourages regeneration, growth and the creation of new synapses and neurons. It also facilitates the release of glutamate at the presynapse and improves postsynaptic glutamate receptor synthesis.
BDNF is also linked to wellness. When the levels of BDNF are high, it is easier for people to acquire new knowledge and retain memories. People who have high levels of this protein also feel happier.
Therefore, BDNF can be considered as a natural antidepressant. Depression can occur when BDNF levels are low. People who suffer from Huntington’s disease usually have lower levels of BDNF.
The lower levels may be partly responsible for the regenerative process of this ailment. In studies involving Frankenstein mice, which are engineered to have no BDNF in their hearts usually, the mice develop heart failure quickly. Therefore, low levels of BDNF could be a possible link between heart disease and depression.
In women, blood levels of BDNF are also correlated with romantic attachment. Women with higher levels of BDNF in their blood scored lower on avoidance tests. This means that they were friendlier and more likely to form bonds. Therefore, BDNF can play a role in promoting social relationships through a certain reduction of fear and avoidance of strangers.
Research confirms that some exercises help to improve memory. It is possible for people to teach their brains new things. One of the best exercises for improving memory is socializing with friends, family or other people.
Seniors can make it a point to call a relative or friend every day just to catch up with current events. They may also socialize by joining a club or group to meet like-minded people, volunteering or attending parties.
Most people also have a positive experience from adopting a pet such as a cat or a dog. These animals are social and are a great medium for meeting new people while walking them.
Socialization offers a good opportunity for stimulating the mind. When people are socializing, it is likely that they will laugh due to other people’s jokes. Good jokes exercise memory in a powerful manner.
Laughter stimulates a large part of the brain and causes the production of chemicals which are beneficial to neuroplasticity. The creativity involved in creating good jokes or remembering funny jokes is a great exercise for brain power and memory.
Therefore, to protect themselves against Alzheimer’s seniors can seek out people who can bring out laughter in them or those they can laugh with. Socialization also helps create interpersonal connections, confidence and a sense of belonging.
Socialization is also shown to improve the overall health of the brain. A study completed by the National Institutes of Health identified several factors that can influence emotional and cognitive health in seniors. The study suggested that if older adults are mentally active and they maintain strong social connections, they can reduce the risk of dementia. Mental and social stimulation result in stronger connections between neurons.
Playing games and puzzles is also great for improving cognitive function. Since puzzles require concentration and attention, they are an excellent exercise for the elderly. Some studies indicate that seniors who regularly play mentally stimulating games or read are less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s.
There are many games available to suit the tastes of any senior. Some of the best games for seniors include anagrams, jigsaw puzzles, board games, card games, crosswords and word searches.
Another thing that helps promote healthy cognitive function is nutrition. It is important to follow a healthy diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fats. Eating foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids such as fish is also beneficial for brain health and can help prevent Alzheimer’s.
Physical activities are also important in preventing dementia. Apart from keeping people healthy and strong, activities like yoga, walking, stretching and Tai-chi can also help their brains by eliminating stress.
Research also shows that low impact exercises are beneficial for memory care patients. A study completed at the Alzheimer’s Association explored the impact that exercise had on several mice, which were engineered to carry one of the genes that cause Alzheimer’s disease. The outcome showed that mental and physical stimulation appears to reduce tendencies towards Alzheimer’s.
Therapies for people suffering from dementia usually focus on enhancing the lives of patients while increasing mental and physical activity. Seniors can engage in enjoyable activities in the process. With the wealth of mentally stimulating activities available, seniors can enjoy a relaxed and happy lifestyle.