By now, we all know that a good diet and regular exercise are the foundation of staying healthy. The specter of a family history of heart disease or diabetes can be a big incentive for some of us to keep exercising regularly so that we have a better chance of avoiding the ravishing effects of these chronic diseases. But this isn’t what keeps me coming back to the gym. Nope, I come from a line of physically very healthy people. No heart disease, no diabetes, no hereditary cancer, no allergies, nada. 2 of my grandparents lived to be 100. There is one thing, though: Alzheimer’s.
My great-grandmother lived with Alzheimer’s for many years in a nursing home. I remember visiting her when I was young – my grandfather and I would bring her ice cream, which he would feed to her because the disease had made her unable to do even this simple task. After his own long decline with Alzheimer’s, during which he became unable to recognize his own family members, my grandfather passed away this past summer from this devastating, relentless disease. Is it in my genetic cards to also end up with Alzheimer’s? Possibly.
In the past, exercise was not felt to be central to fighting Alzheimer’s. However, there has been a great deal of new research lately. We now know that exercise, the physical kind not the the crosswords and sudoku puzzles that have been traditionally been recommended, can help to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. As has been recently reported, maintaining a lifestyle that includes at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days per week, can not only improve cognitive function but lead to decreased levels of biomarkers in the brain.
So what does this mean for you and me?
If you are currently exercising regularly, keep at it!
If you are looking for motivation to get going, let this be it. Even if heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s are not in your family history, this recent revelation about the importance of exercise in disease prevention should be an eye-opener that regular exercise may play a vital, and maybe yet unrecognized role, in preventing all sorts of ailments and genetic diseases.
Have a great week, and be healthy!