June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Dementia is a brain condition that affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory, and language, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. While the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases with age, Alzheimer’s disease is not considered a “normal” part of aging.
According to Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioral and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.
Approximately 5.8 million people in the United States age 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s disease. Of those, 80% are 75 years old and older. Out of the approximately 50 million people worldwide with dementia, between 60% and 70% are estimated to have Alzheimer’s disease.
The early signs of the disease include forgetting recent events or conversations. As the disease progresses, a person with Alzheimer’s disease will develop severe memory impairment and lose the ability to carry out everyday tasks.
There is no treatment that cures Alzheimer’s disease or alters the disease process in the brain. In advanced stages of the disease, complications from severe loss of brain function – such as dehydration, malnutrition or infection – result in death.
The National Library of Medicine has a great study published in September of 2019 titled ‘Physical Activity and Brain Health’. In it, it states many studies have shown that physical activity(PA) can reverse at least some of the unwanted effects of sedentary lifestyle, and can also contribute in delaying brain aging and degenerative pathologies such as Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. Most importantly, PA improves cognitive processes and memory, has analgesic and antidepressant effects, and even induces a sense of wellbeing.
The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors-chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells. Exercise is seen to help in both direct and indirect ways with memory and thinking. Indirect ways are improving mood and sleep patterns, and reducing stress and anxiety.
Neuropsychologist Aaron Bonner-Jackson, PhD gives a list of helpful take-aways to help in reducing the risks of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Stay active– Try to get 150 minutes of moderate activity weekly, such as walking, biking, and swimming. But remember all physical activity will benefit the brain.
- Try new and mentally stimulating activities-Read a new book, work on a puzzle, solve math problems, learn a new language or musical instrument, or other hobbies you enjoy.
- Stay social and avoid isolation– Stay active with family and friends as much as possible, whether in person or over the phone or computer; Join groups to volunteer time where you live or at a local organization.
Exercise improves cognitive performance and active lifestyles decrease age-related risks for cognitive impairment and dementia.
Take care..and stay happy, healthy, and confident always!