CHICAGO (WBBM) — Two new studies from Rush University Medical Center researchers find you’re more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease if you’re a couch potato or if you have thin brain matter.

Dr. Bryan James’ study finds that people who stay home, who don’t venture past their backyard or their parking lot, may be twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as people who get out of their homes, even if they just travel to other parts of their own neighborhood.

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James’ study involved 1,300 people who, at first, had no signs of memory or thinking problems. He says his numbers stood up, even when he left out of the results the people who developed Alzheimer’s during the first year of the study.

James says previous studies have shown that there are benefits to learning new things and meeting new people.

So that’s what James suggests you do. “Don’t get too complacent and sit on your couch all day,” he said.

The study can be found in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Meanwhile, another study involving a Rush researcher, finds that people with normal mind-functions but who have thinner-than-normal specific areas of the brain are three times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as someone with a thick brain structure.

Dr. Leyla de Toledo-Morrell says people in the study had normal brain functions when they were given MRI scans at the beginning of the study.

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She says people who developed Alzheimer’s disease a few years later had thinner brain structures. They were twice as likely as those with normal-thickness brain matter and three times as likely as those with thicker-than-normal brain matter.

Dr. de Toledo-Morrell says efforts are under way to develop drugs to combat the thinning of the brain in hopes of preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s in some people.

Dr. de Toledo-Morrell’s study done in conjunction with Dr. Brad Dickerson at Massachusetts General Hospital appears in the latest issue of the journal Neurology.

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