Brain, Heal Thyself

An Article from The Wall Street Journal 02/07/15

by Norman Daidge

It’s more likely to lose brain cells due to lack of use than overuse, this article explains. Mark Rosenzweig of U. of C. Berkeley and Michael Mersenich of U. of C. San Francisco and others found that with activity and exercise, that pathways in the brain actually changed. They found that the brain is “fluid” and can change by what we do. Both mental and physical exercise can lower the dementia risk. Vigorous daily exercise can lower the chances of getting dementia by 60% they say.

The idea that what happens in later life is “all in the genes” has been disproven. Genetic tendencies can be influenced by environmental factors. Somehow environmental stimuli can interact with the genetics to possibly change the outcome! Science has proven that an increase in exercise triggers new growth of brain cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain where Alzheimer’s hits first, the seat of long term memories. Dr. Edward Taub and his colleagues have also discovered that when strokes occur causing neuron cell death in the brain, the confinement of the good limb and intensive exercise of the paralyzed part can cause other neurons to take over for the damaged ones. Exercising the brain in general shows improvement in daily life even 10 years later!

This is great news for those people who know that they have an APOE4 gene, the late onset gene for Alzheimer’s. If they start early and vigorous exercise not only in their body, but also their brain, perhaps they can at least push back the onset of dementia, or maybe even escape it altogether!

[I know the value in vigorous exercise. Although my husband, Jim, did not consistently do vigorous exercise from his 20’s on, once he showed symptoms of dementia at age 45 (APOE4 gene), vigorous exercise helped to clear his brain and get rid of the “sunburned brain” feeling. It gave him a few good hours of clear thinking that he did not have previous to the exercise.]

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