There are over 850,000 people in the UK with dementia and this figure is expected to increase to over 1 million in 2025 and by 2050, it will rise to more than 2 million according to the Alzheimer’s Society. Dementia is a degenerative disease causing a decline in cognitive and mental functioning. There are many causes of dementia including head injuries, stroke or brain tumour.
Several research studies have been undertaken to better understand the causes of this condition as well as its early signs. Lately, recent evidence came to light that dementia may be linked to dirty air. Based on research findings, contaminated air can be a possible source of dementia. It is believed that high concentrations of magnetite particles found in polluted air may be linked to dementia. Researchers are trying to establish whether there is a definitive relation between magnetite found in the brains of Alzheimer patients and the onset of dementia.
As anyone with a family member with Alzheimer’s will know that it is a full time job caring for them. And it is not just about giving them attention; you have to research about a lot on Alzheimer of things which you never thought would come up.
For example, after my uncle was diagnosed one thing that later came up was how to ensure that he got enough exercise in the later stages of the disease. And such things really matter.
Exercise is good for everyone, and matters a whole lot more for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Exercise unfortunately does not cure the condition but it does help to ease some of its symptoms. And anything that helps our loved one has to be considered.
How does Exercise help Alzheimer’s patients?
When one says the word exercise, most people think of running, swimming or going to the gym. However exercise is a lot more than that. Any physical activity that can increase your heart rate and make you breathe more deeply can be defined as exercise. This means every day activities such as gardening, dancing and walking also count as exercise. Also chores like gardening and doing the laundry not just lead to physical exercise, but their simple repetitive nature also helps inoculate a sense of peace and security in people with Alzheimer’s. Tasks like folding laundry may not be really intensive exercise but they help because these tasks do not involve decision making and remembering what to do next thus they are a source of meditation almost, making anxiety drop. And when they finish they feel good, knowing that they have accomplished something.
Beside lowering anxiety there are other benefits which exercise brings for people with dementia:
Exercise can serve as a great way to ensure they get opportunity for social interaction. My uncle loves going to the park for a walk. And it makes for a great time for me to actively converse with him too.
Exercise improves their sleep.
Their ability to self-sufficient, that is dress themselves, clean and even cook can be done more efficiently if they are fit physically.
Studies have shown that exercise does help to improve memory and slow down the mental decline.
Exercise leads to the release of endorphins, which in turn leads to an overall improved mood, confidence levels and overtime greater self-esteem.
Getting started with exercise
It is important that you go to the doctor for advice before you start developing an exercise regime for your loved one. This is more important for older patients, especially those who had so far not undertaken regular exercise.
What is the right amount of physical activity in the early to the middle stages of dementia?
There is no standard answer to this question and the amount of exercise really differs from person to person. Most health organizations recommend that adults should at least get 150 minutes of moderately strenuous physical activity each day. This translates to 30 minutes for 5 days a week. However you do not have to maintain a continuous 30 minute session. You can break down 30 minutes into 10 or 15 minutes sessions. For example, I take my uncle to a 10 to 15 minute walk to the grocery shop. And then later in the evening he and I do our push-ups and crunches.
Each year in November we celebrate Alzheimer’s awareness day. It is great that we have dedicated a day to them, but we should remember that they require our attention throughout the year and the little things go a long way. So go for regular walks with your loved ones, be they in the park or to the local supermarket but do keep them physically active.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease which destroys memory and many other important mental functions.
It is, also, the most common cause of dementia that is defined as a group of brain disorders that result in loss of social and intellectual skills. Scientists aren’t quite sure what causes Alzheimer’s disease which is why there’s no specific treatment that could stop it. Furthermore, scientists from different parts of the world are constantly working on studies and researches whose primary aim is to find out something new about this disease. Findings of these studies are used to modify treatments, prevent or delay its occurrence or slow down its progress. The most recent study identified nine risk factors for this disease.
Factors that put you at risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease
This particular study was conducted by team of researches led by Wei Xu from Department of Neurology, Qingdao Municipal Hospital, School of Medicine, Qingdao University in China.
For the purpose of this research, scientists systematically searched PubMed and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews from inception to July 2014. They analyzed more than 300 studies and references they included. In total, about 16,906 articles were identified of which 323 with 93 factors met the inclusion criteria for meta-analysis.
The results of this study were published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. Researchers discovered the following Alzheimer’s disease risk factors:
The team of researchers pointed out that study is strictly observational but they also assume that findings could help medical professionals prescribe specific lifestyle changes to the Alzheimer’s disease patients. Scientists also discovered that some hormones, drugs for high blood pressure, vitamins etc. can help lowering the risk of this disease while homocysteine and depression are associated with heightened risk.
Alzheimer’s disease in numbers
1 in 3 senior citizens dies with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia
1 in 9 Americans over 65 have Alzheimer’s
2 in 3 Alzheimer’s disease patients in the US are women
6 – Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, and also it is the only leading cause of death that cannot be prevented or cured. North Dakota has a higher Alzheimer’s disease mortality rate than any other state in the US (54 deaths a year per 100,000 residents). On the other hand, the lowest mortality rate associated with Alzheimer’s disease is in Nevada (11 deaths a year per 100,000 residents)
44 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s or dementia
30% of people with Alzheimer’s also have heart disease
29% people with Alzheimer’s disease also have diabetes.
FACT: Alzheimer’s disease is most common in Western Europe with North America close behind. The disease is least prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Protecting cognitive health
Although Alzheimer’s disease can’t be prevented or cured, you can still make some lifestyle adjustments that would slow down its progress. Plus, protecting your cognitive health is of crucial importance for your overall health as well. Here are some things you can do:
Exercise – physical activity is beneficial for your wellbeing and it can also help prevent cognitive decline. There’s a well-known Latin proverb which says Mens sana in corpore sano meaning “a sound mind in sound body”. The point of the proverb is to emphasize the importance of physical activity for all aspects of your life. Even taking a nice and easy walk for 30 minutes each day can be quite beneficial for you.
Supplement – today, you can find a wide range of supplements formulated to improve memory, focus, and cognitive abilities. These supplements are made of natural ingredients whose benefits for brain health are well-documented. For example, Nerium EHT is an age-defying supplement that promotes better cognitive function and brain health, combats inflammation and oxidative stress, improves focus and concentration, and strengthens brain’s natural functions. Due to natural ingredients, brain supplements usually do not induce any side effects.
Omega 3 fatty acids – are essential for optimal brain health and if you didn’t have the habit of eating seafood (or taking Omega 3 supplements) it’s good time for you to start doing so. Plus, your body needs Omega 3 fatty acids to remain healthy.
Intellectual stimulation – in order to function properly, your brain needs to be challenged. There are various ways you can do it. For example, play Sudoku, crosswords or puzzles. You can also take up a new hobby, sign up for some class, travel, learn a new language; even reading is brain-healthy.
Social engagement – socializing is quite important for your brain health. Depression, one of major risk factors of this disease, is associated with loneliness. Hanging out with friends and family is soul-enriching and it’s also beneficial for your brain.
Alzheimer’s disease is a subject of a wide array of studies nowadays. Results of this study can be considered as a new breakthrough which can help doctors prescribe specific lifestyle changes to slow down progress of this disease. Hopefully, in the near future, we can expect more studies that would provide a new insight into this disease.
Willo Conner – a freelancer, online article editor, eBook author for health and fitness. He has designed and taught health programs on the topics of health disorders, body image and self-acceptance, beauty tips for women, exercise for seniors. He writes for many online publications.