(HealthDay News) – For older adults with varying cognitive function, high energy output correlates with greater preservation of brain structure, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held from Nov. 25–30 in Chicago.

Cyrus Raji, MD, PhD, from the University of California in Los Angeles, and colleagues examined energy output from caloric expenditure as a predictor of magnetic resonance imaging-based gray matter (GM) volume. Data were collected from 876 participants aged ≥65 years in a four-site population-based longitudinal study of coronary heart disease and stroke; all participants were classified by cognitive assessments as having normal cognition, mild cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s dementia. Energy output was assessed using the standardized Minnesota Leisure-Time Activities questionnaire.

The researchers found that greater caloric expenditure correlated with greater GM volumes in frontal, temporal, and parietal lobes, with the hippocampus, thalamus, and basal ganglia implicated. Increased energy output showed a positive benefit on the posterior hippocampus. In individuals with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s dementia, high energy output correlated with greater GM volumes in the precuneus, posterior cingulate, and cerebellar vermis.

“Virtually all of the physical activities examined in this study are some variation of aerobic physical activity, which we know from other work can improve cerebral blood flow and strengthen neuronal connections,” Raji said in a statement. “Our initial results show that brain aging can be alleviated through an active lifestyle.”

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