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Free radicals and vascular ageing; move your muscles move your mind!

University of South Wales research shines new light on the cerebrovascular benefits of physical activity

Findings from the Neurovascular Research Laboratory, led by Professor Damian Bailey at the University of South Wales, have transformed our understanding of free radicals and how they can influence the way the human brain ages. Novel “Brain-Train” studies have raised public awareness to the cerebrovascular benefits of physical activity, which helps improve blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain thereby reducing the risk of stroke and dementia.  Health and welfare impacts are already being felt with exercise and improved vascular screening reducing the complications and untimely deaths in patients with atherosclerosis. Alternative models of “accelerated” brain ageing have provided unique insight into the mechanisms linking free radicals, oxygen, stroke and dementia.

This has included studies ranging from patients with chronic mountain sickness who fail to adapt to the hypoxia (oxygen lack) of high-altitude to record-breaking freedivers who have an extraordinary ability to cope with extremes of hypoxia that would otherwise be considered incompatible with ordinary human life. Their findings have also helped Olympic athletes and are currently informing clinical management of professional boxers and rugby union players who are becoming increasingly vulnerable to brain injury and dementia in the long term due to prolonged exposure to sub-concussive head impacts.

“We incorporated Professor Bailey’s research findings into our preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games. The notion that “exercise starts and ends in the brain” combined with novel brain-train approaches aimed at optimising oxygen delivery were an instrumental part of our success.” Marc Jenkins, ex-Olympian and coach to two-times World Champion tri-athlete Helen Jenkins

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