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Moderate Exercise Dramatically Improves Brain Blood Flow in Elderly Women
A new study presented at the Experimental Biology annual meeting, held from April 9 to 13 in Washington, D.C. suggests that it's never too late for women to reap the benefits of moderate aerobic exercise.
Rong Zhang, M.D., from the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, and colleagues examined whether moderate exercise over a three-month period increased cerebral blood flow (CBF) in sedentary women aged 60 or older.
An individualized training program was designed for eight women (average age 70) according to their fitness levels. Training started with thirty minutes of exercise at base pace heart rate three times a week, and increased to 50 minutes at base pace heart rate four times a week, plus two sessions of 30 minutes at maximal steady-state heart rate in the third month.
Color Doppler and 2D ultrasonography were used to measure CBF in both the left and right internal carotid arteries.
The researchers found that, at the end of the training, CBF increased by 24% and 14 % in the left and right internal carotid arteries, respectively, and maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max) increased by 13 %.
The participants' average blood pressure decreased by 4 percent, which was correlated with a slight decrease in the heart rate.
Blood Flow and the Brain
A steady, healthy flow of blood to the brain achieves two things.
First, the blood brings oxygen, glucose and other nutrients to the brain, which are vital for the brain's health.
Second, the blood washes away brain metabolic wastes such as amyloid-beta protein released into the brain's blood vessels. Amyloid-beta protein has been implicated in the development of Alzheimer's disease.
Dr. Zhang stresses the importance of the finding that improvement in brain blood flow is possible in one's senior years. "We often start to see a decline in brain perfusion and cognitive function in the 60s and 70s. That's when the downward trajectory starts. We want to see how much we can do to reverse or delay that process."
Source: Experimental Biology Meeting (EB 2011) Press Release