DNC News


DNC NEWS: Alzheimer's Disease: walking and diet help prevent

September 22, 2004   


Subject: Regular walking and a Mediterranean Diet lower risk of Alzheimer's Disease.


Walking regularly at age 70 and beyond can help keep the mind sharp and ward off Alzheimer's disease, according to research suggesting that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain.


In this weeks issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), three new articles of interest appear regarding simple ways to lower the risk of developing Alzheimer 's disease. Two studies looked at walking as warding off the disease and a third looked at diet.


Previous studies found that physical activity might stave off mental decline. But the new findings, contained in two studies, [1] [2] show that the activity does not have to be overly strenuous. Taking a walk works!


Another study suggests that the benefits of a Mediterranean diet rich in fish, olive oil and fruits and vegetables extend into old age, increasing longevity even in men and women in their 70s, 80s and 90s. [3]


"This study is important because it is often thought that diet, alcohol, physical activity and smoking doesn't matter any more in old age," said nutrition researcher Kim Knoops of The Netherlands' Wageningen University , the lead author.


One study, involving 2,257 retired men aged 71 to 93, found that those who walked less than 440 metres a day were almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia as men who walked more than 3.2 kilometres daily.


A study of 16,466 female nurses aged 70 to 81 found that even women who walked a leisurely 1½ hours a week did better on tests of mental function than less-active women.


"We were a bit surprised that something so modest as walking would be associated with apparent cognitive benefits. That was really the surprise," said Jennifer Weuve, a Harvard School of Public Health researcher who led the nurse study.


Previous studies have linked mental exercise, such as crossword puzzles and reading, with a reduced risk of Alzheimer's. The new research shows physical exercise helps, too.


The Dutch study, meanwhile, showed that Europeans aged 70 to 90 who ate a Mediterranean-style diet had a 23-per-cent lower risk of death during a 10-year follow-up than those with less-healthy eating habits.


A 65-per-cent lower mortality risk was found in those who combined the Mediterranean-style diet with three other healthy habits - moderate alcohol use, no smoking and a half-hour or more per day of physical activity, including walking.


  [click to read abstracts of these articles]


[1] Walking and Dementia in Physically Capable Elderly Men

Robert D. Abbott, PhD; Lon R. White, MD; G. Webster Ross, MD; Kamal H. Masaki, MD; J. David Curb, MD; Helen Petrovitch, MD

JAMA.  2004;292:1447-1453.

[2] Physical Activity, Including Walking, and Cognitive Function in Older Women

Jennifer Weuve, ScD; Jae Hee Kang, ScD; JoAnn E. Manson, MD; Monique M. B. Breteler, MD; James H. Ware, PhD; Francine Grodstein, ScD

JAMA. 2004;292:1454-1461.

[3] Mediterranean Diet, Lifestyle Factors, and 10-Year Mortality in Elderly European Men and Women The HALE Project

Kim T. B. Knoops, MSc; Lisette C. P. G. M. de Groot, PhD; Daan Kromhout, PhD; Anne-Elisabeth Perrin, MD, MSc; Olga Moreiras-Varela, PhD; Alessandro Menotti, MD, PhD; Wija A. van Staveren, PhD

JAMA.  2004;292:1433-1439.


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