In some people, the brain develops "silent strokes," in which blood supply is blocked to tiny areas. But — you guessed it! — a new study finds that vigorous exercise appears to help guard against those little brain attacks. As USA Today reports here:
Older people who regularly exercise at moderate to intense levels may have a 40% lower risk of developing brain damage linked to ischemic strokes, certain kinds of dementia and mobility problems.
New research published Wednesday in the journal Neurology says the MRIs of people who exercised at higher levels were significantly less likely to show silent brain infarcts — caused by blocked arteries that interrupt blood flow and are markers for strokes — than people who exercised lightly.
Until now, studies have shown exercise helps lower blood pressure, bad cholesterol and insulin levels, all risk factors for strokes causing brain damage. Treating those conditions is helpful, but often brain damage from multiple infarctions is not reversible.
"It's not good enough just to exercise, but the more (intense) the better," says physician Joshua Willey, a co-author of the study and researcher at Columbia University's Department of Neurology. "We think exercise is protecting against the development of brain infarcts, and the hope is with lower risk of having these events, you'd also be at lower risk of dementia or stro
This program aired on June 13, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.