Regular exercise increases cerebral blood flow and helps to stave off age-related brain changes, so say researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC).
J. Keith Smith and colleagues compared brain scans of 12 healthy adults aged between 60 and 76. Half of the participants were very active and had exercised for at least three to four hours each week for the last ten years, whereas the other half had led a sedentary life and had exercised for less than one hour each week. Results showed that the sedentary participants had fewer small blood vessels in the brain, and that the blood flow through the brain was somewhat unpredictable. However, the active participants had more small blood vessels and improved blood flow.
"Our results show that exercise may reduce age-related changes in brain vasculature and blood flow," said Feraz Rahman, M.S., who presented the findings at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. "Other studies have shown that exercise prevents cognitive decline in the elderly. The blood vessel and flow differences may be one reason."
News release: Exercise helps prevent age-related brain changes in older adults. Radiological Society of North America. December 1st 2008.