Although Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most common neurodegenerative disease, the etiology of AD is not well understood. In some cases, genetic factors explain AD risk, but a high percentage of late-onset AD is unexplained. The fact that AD is associated with a number of physical and systemic manifestations suggests that AD is a multifactorial disease that affects both the CNS and periphery. Interestingly, a common feature of many systemic processes linked to AD is involvement in energy metabolism. The goals of this review are to 1) explore the evidence that peripheral processes contribute to AD risk, 2) explore ways that AD modulates whole-body changes, and 3) discuss the role of genetics, mitochondria, and vascular mechanisms as underlying factors that could mediate both central and peripheral manifestations of AD. Despite efforts to strictly define AD as a homogeneous CNS disease, there may be no single etiologic pathway leading to the syndrome of AD dementia. Rather, the neurodegenerative process may involve some degree of baseline genetic risk that is modified by external risk factors. Continued research into the diverse but related processes linked to AD risk is necessary for successful development of disease-modifying therapies.
Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; Exercise; Metabolism; Mitochondria; Physical activity.
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