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Keep Muscles Strong to Ward off Alzheimer's

A study published in the November 2009 issue of Annals of Neurology shows that more mature people with stronger muscles may have a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Researchers from the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago recruited 970 participants with an average age of 80 for the study.

The researchers measured the muscle strength of 9 separate muscle groups in the participant's arms and legs. They also measured the strength of their breathing muscles, which are comprised of the diaphragm, abdominals and intercostals.

During a 4 year follow-up, 128 cases of Alzheimer's were diagnosed.

Even after adjusting for factors such as age and education, the researchers saw a direct link between muscle strength and Alzheimer's risk.

Those in the top 10% in terms of muscle strength had a 60% reduction in Alzheimer's risk compared to the weakest 10%.

They also found that stronger people saw a slower overall decline in their cognitive abilities over time. Grip and breathing-muscle strength seemed to be the most important kinds of muscle strength, while arm and leg strength did not play as important a role.

These findings show that staying physically active is essential for maintaining cognitive function as you age. Some other good ways to avoid cognitive decline include:

Eating a brain-healthy diet such as foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Keeping your mind active by attending social events or solving puzzles.

Sleeping regularly and restfully

Learning to relax

Doing moderate intensity exercises like walking, biking or yoga 3 times a week

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