Regular exercise may increase the number of small blood vessels in the brain and increase overall cerebral blood flow, according to a study presented at last week’s RSNA meeting.
This could explain why exercise prevents cognitive decline in older folks, according to chief study investigator Feraz Rahman, a medical student at Jefferson Medical College.
Rahman and his team carried out a retrospective, cross-sectional study of 12 people between the ages of 60-80. Half the people had exercised for at least 3 hours per week in the preceding 10 years, while the others had gotten only about a third as much during the same period.
The study involved MRI scans, MR angiography and a 3-dimensional computer rendering of cerebral blood vessels enabling the scientists to determine blood vessel radius and average blood flow to various regions of the brain.
The frequent exercisers had more “small vessels,” with radii of 0.35mm and a greater and more predictable cerebral blood flow.
It remains to be determined whether sedentary adults that initiate an exercise program can experience improved cerebral vasculature and blood flow.
Rahman concluded that “exercise is a vital part of healthy aging and might slow the loss of small vessels.”