Alzheimer's Disease is steadily growing in prevelance, with a devastating public health impact. The prevelance of Alzheimer's Disease is higher in African Americans compared to white Americans, thereby constituting a health disparity. Interventions that prevent Alzheimer's Disease or change the course of cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's Disease are needed. Most older adults do not achieve the recommended levels of physical activity, and this includes African Americans. Regular physical activity has proven to be a safe and effective means to enhance cognitive function in older adults ranging from cognitively healthy to mildly cognitively impaired. Therefore our study is focused on physical activity promotion, a potent approach to modifying multiple neurobiological pathways implicated in Alzheimer's Disease. We evaluate exercise benefits among elderly African Americans, who are understudied and in whom the natural course of neurodegeneration, exercise effects in neuroprotection and neurodegeneration, and resulting clinical phenotypes may differ. A large body of exisiting data suggests that exercise improves cardiovascular and cerebrovascular functioning, and thus has the potential to enhance perivascular clearance of amyloid and reduce chronic brain tissue ischemia, among other beneficial effects. At the same time, chronic exercise has been shown to decrease central levels of inflammatory markers and increase central levels of neurotrophic factors, which in turn promote protection against Alzheimer's Disease neurodegeneration pathways via a variety of mechanisms. While physical activity interventions have been shown to have positive effects on these factors and on resultant cognitive functioning in older adults, nearly all interventions have had a negligible representation of African Americans. Prior dara suggests that African Americans enter their elderly years against a backdrop of different lifespan exposures to a variety of factors relevant to neuroprotection and neurodegeneration, including cardiovascular risk, exercise, diet, and education. In addition, prior data suggests that the key genetic risk factor for Alzheimer's Diease (APOE) may have differing consequences for Alzheimer's Diease risk among African Americans, and other genetic differences have the potential to influence the brain benefits of physical activity in this community. We will utilize a randomized clinical trial to address these questions. Participants will be randomized into a physical promotion intervention or a healthy aging information group for 52 weeks. All participants will be of normal cognitive function. We will assess cognitive function, brain structure and function, circulating hormones, objectively measured physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and telomere length. Our study will take the first step toward understanding whether the hypothesized benefits of exercise for the brain carry over to elderly African Americans.

Public Health Relevance

African American adults have two-times the risk of developing Alzheimer's Disease compared to other ethnic groups. The current study (called ?RAATE?) will determine if regular physical activity conducted over a year will reduce risk factors for developing Alzheimer's Disease in older African American adults. We will assess participants brain functioning, brain structure, memory, and chromosomes.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1)
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Wagster, Molly V
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Lsu Pennington Biomedical Research Center
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Baton Rouge
United States
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