Fitness May Reduce Brain Atrophy in Alzheimer's Disease

Cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with both whole brain volume and white matter volume

TUESDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- In patients with early Alzheimer's disease, increased cardiorespiratory fitness is associated with reduced brain atrophy, but the reasons are unclear, according to a study published in the July 15 issue of Neurology.

Jeffrey M. Burns, M.D., of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City, and colleagues assessed 57 patients with early-stage Alzheimer's disease and 64 subjects without dementia who underwent MRI and standard clinical and psychometric evaluations.

After controlling for age, sex, dementia severity, physical activity and physical frailty, the researchers found that peak oxygen consumption was associated with whole brain volume and white matter volume in subjects with Alzheimer's disease. They also found that peak oxygen consumption was associated with cognitive performance in subjects with Alzheimer's disease, but not after they controlled for age.

"Importantly, the causal nature of these associations cannot be determined due to the cross-sectional design," the authors write. "As a result, at least three explanations for these findings exist: 1) cardiorespiratory fitness moderates Alzheimer's disease-related brain atrophy, 2) the Alzheimer's disease process itself modifies cardiorespiratory fitness, or 3) a common underlying factor modifies both Alzheimer's disease-related brain atrophy and cardiorespiratory fitness."

Burns and another study author report financial relationships with the pharmaceutical industry.

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