Alzheimers and exercise

Alzheimers and exercise proves that keeping fit also saves your brain.

Research from the archives of neurology brings convincing new evidence confirming what we already know; mental and physical exercise help prevent Alzheimer's disease.

Loss of muscle bulk and power is not uncommon and is associated with a number of negative health outcomes in old age, but little research has been done which examines if there is any association between muscle strength and risk of Alzheimer's disease or mild cognitive impairment.

The objective of the study was to test the hypothesis that muscle strength is associated, positively or negatively, with mental loss.

More than 900 older persons, without dementia at the start of the research study, had the strength of nine muscle groups measured.

Over the next four years, 138 per 900 persons developed severe mental depreciation. What was interesting was those who increased their muscle strength with exercise, had a 43 percent decreased risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

This page was last updated by Dr Barrie Lewis on 7th December, 2018.

Alzheimers and Exercise

Alzheimers and exercise brings convincing new evidence confirming what we already know that mental and physical activity helps prevent cognitive decline.

Exercise is beneficial in the treatment of Alzheimers disease.

RESEARCH: Is there a connection between walking and cognitive decline?

It was clear that increased muscle strength was associated with a decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment, the precursor to Alzheimer's disease.

These findings suggest a link between muscle strength, exercise, and mental decline in older persons.

Causes of osteoporosis

The moral of the story is that if you want to save your brain, and granny's too, get the bikes and your hiking boots out or suffer. Not only Alzheimers and exercise, but think too about the causes of osteoporosis, arthritis and the relationship between a heap of other exercise and cholesterol related diseases.

There is also a proven link between raised cholesterol and Alzheimer's, just as there is with exercise. The eggplant, or aubergine as it is known in Europe, has been proved to lower bad fatty fraction, hence our eggplant recipes page. Of course by applying exercise and lowering atheromatous deposits in your arteries you are indirectly helping your brain too. It's nice to do anyway; strengthen your back, good for your heart and prevent brittle bone disease.

In a landmark study, reported in the journal of neurology 2007 researchers followed 8000 non demented 65 year olds for the next four years. Their conclusions are sobering:

  • Daily consumption of fruits and vegetables was associated with a decreased risk of dementia.
  • Weekly consumption of fish was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimers Disease and all causes of dementia but only among ApoE 4 noncarriers.
  • Regular use of omega 3 rich oils was associated, with borderline significance, a decreased risk of dementia. 
  • Regular consumption of omega 6 rich oils without a compensatory increase in omega 3 rich oils or fish was associated with an increased risk of dementia among ApoE 4 non carriers.

In short: If you are a carrier, fish and omega 3 fish oil might not help, or help only marginally; but increasing your omega-6 will worsen your chances.

If you are a non carrier, omega 3 rich fish certainly helps prevents Alzheimers. Even in non-carriers, too much omega 6 seed oil  puts you at higher risk of Alzheimers, unless you also take extra omega 3.

Use less seed oils, rather use olive oil, since you almost certainly don't know whether you are a carrier or not; eat more fatty fish anyway and (controversial, my thoughts) use butter and olive and palm oil rather than seed oils for cooking (if your cholesterol levels are okay).


Apolipoprotein E (APOE) 4 carriers

In research reported in Archives of Neurology Vol 64, Sept 2007, memory decline is certainly in part genetic. Researchers followed three groups of people aged 50 to 69:

  • Carriers of the APOE 4 gene on two genes; homozygous.
  • Carriers of the APOE 4 gene on only one gene; heterozygous.
  • Non carriers of the APOE 4 gene.


Of 214 participants,

  • 48 experienced no decline in memory
  • 126 showed decline in one test meaning mild memory loss
  • 40 revealed more serious loss of memory.

More important, 40 percent of those carrying APOE 4 on two genes showed significant cognitive decline compared to only 8 percent of the second two groups.

Here's a thought. We can't change our genetics. If you are a carrier of APOE 4 on both genes you are at risk, but 60 percent of this group did not show significant decline. How can we make sure we are in the 60 percent group, and not the 40 percent group who showed severe mental decline?

It is not set in concrete whether we will get alzheimers or not. Our behaviour, what we eat, whether we exercise both our body's and brains, has a vital role to play in whether we will use our marbles.

In another study, published in the archives of neurology, 2010 researchers found that the APOE gene reduces blood flow to the brain, preceding the onset of dementia. In short, couch potatoes who are carrying APOE 4 on both genes are highly likely to end up in the 40 percent group. Those who exercise vigorously are far less likely to have loss of cerebral blood flow, and the consequent memory decline.

Furthermore, couch potatoes who are not carriers can also end up with Alzheimers, due to decreased blood flow to the cerebrum, but the chances are much lower.

Smoking is obviously a factor affecting blood flow, causing atheromas in the arteries leading to the brain, and within the brain.

Memory and Sleep 

Whilst your body may be a rest at night, your mind is a hive of activity, saving the relevant information of the day in its data bank. But those who sleep poorly have difficulty storing these facts in the normal way. The result is short term memory loss and ultimately the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Good, deep, relaxing sleep if vital for each and every one of us. Those who have 6 or less hours a night will have short term memory loss; alcohol is often a problem causing us to wake after four or five hours of sleep and unable to fall asleep again. 

Alzheimer's and exercise gives you a double benefit; better sleep and a lowered risk of dementia.

Tragically, during surgery a sudden drop in blood pressure may leave the brain gasping for oxygen. Anaesthetic Alzheimer's is a total new ball game. Sudden loss of blood flow to the skull has a devastating effect.  

Why on a Chiropractic Help website? Well, in the first place, any and all surgery is a risky business purely because of the GA. Believe you me, the anaethestist told me she very nearly lost me after minor surgery, aged 38. You can read about it in Stones in my Clog my latest book of DC anecdotes.

Anaesthetic Alzheimers was literally staring me in the face, and my wife says it explains a lot of things!

Never go for spinal surgery until you've at least had an examination and opinion from a chiropractor, well, that's my opinion anyway. Chiropractic Help might just save you.

Failed back surgery means that a life without medication becomes a pipe dream; sometimes you have no other option.

We alluded above to the fact that the fruit we call an aubergine has been shown to lower cholesterol, and thus directly affect aging of the brain. Read more at eggplant recipes.

Consider too the importance of a phytochemical called betaine, yes found in beets, that supplies a vital enzyme to the methylation of toxic homocysteine, a natural breakdown product of protein metabolism.

If the necessary B vitamins are not present, homocysteine levels rise and are a major cause of inflammation, not only in the brain, but the in blood vessels and organs. What is betaine is an important subject if you want to enjoy better health; or just eat beets regularly!


In short chiropractic has at least in my opinion as much to do with getting you moving and enjoying healthy foods as adjusting your joints. Then you have the benefits of Alzheimers and exercise and a better spine.

Do you for example enjoy dark green leafy vegetables on a daily basis? If not, that's the place to begin.

Having no personal medical insurance is fine if you're following the rules of healthy living; even then of course the unexpected can and does happen but at least the risk is much lower. It's a vast subject, but may I just suggest taking some form of exercise daily, and trying to enjoy at least eight different coloured foods every day; the amount is not critical, and you certainly don't want to start suffering from health nut neurosis, but these are important.

Mainly, we think of cutting out of animal fats as a way of reducing blood cholesterol. Whilst that is, in part, true, including certain foods (like fatty fish and oats) also will reduce cholesterol. There is also a very strong relationship between exercise and arthritis as well as cholesterol ....

Walking benefits home page …

› Alzheimers and exercise

Did you find this page useful? Then perhaps forward it to a suffering friend. Better still, Tweet or Face Book it.

Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

Do you have a problem that is not getting better?

Are you looking for a different slant on your pain?

Do you want to pose a question?

Interesting questions from visitors

CLS writes:

Greetings, Dr B.

You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

Your own unresolved problem. Pose a question

Knowing that up to 70 percent of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there is a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong. Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what a DC does.

The quickest and most interesting way is to read one of my eBooks of anecdotes. Described by a reader as gems, both funny and healthful from the life and work of a chiropractor, you will love them. Priced right at $2.99, though Kindle fiddles the amount without telling me.