The association between physical activity and brain health partly differs between men and women

New research by Silver Santé researchers, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring, 2022 investigated the association between physical activity and markers of brain integrity in older men and women.

Consistently with previous works, both from the Silver Santé Study consortium and other labs, the results revealed that older adults engaging in physical activities have greater brain integrity. More importantly, this study showed that these associations differed, at least in part, between men and women.

Thus, while physical activity was associated with greater cerebral glucose metabolism in both men and women, some effects were sex-specific. More specifically, higher levels of physical activity were associated with greater brain perfusion (a measure of brain function) in women while in men, it was associated with lower levels of amyloid burden (a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease).  This suggests that, while physical activity has beneficial effects both in men and women, part of these effects might be attributed to the involvement of distinct mechanisms in the two groups. Further research will be needed to unveil these sex-specific mechanisms.

Lead author of the paper, Dr Julie Gonneaud of INSERM said: “These results add to a growing literature suggesting the importance of studying sex differences in neurosciences.

They also have potential implications for clinical trials, suggesting that sex-specificities should be considered both in the design of interventions and when studying the response to these interventions.” she concluded.

Full details of the study can be found here.

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