The Radiological Society of North America released the results of a study indicating that walking may slow mental decline in healthy individuals and adults with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. The 20-year study analyzed the relationship between physical activity and brain structure in 426 people, including 299 healthy adults,127 cognitively impaired adults, and 127 adults with MCI or Alzheimer’s dementia.
By far the most common reason for someone needing long-term care is that they are suffering from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Globally around 47 million people have dementia. Without a medical breakthrough, this number could grow to 132 million by 2050, according to the World Alzheimer’s Report.
One study found that people suffering from dementia accounted for four-fifths of all those in care homes worldwide.
The findings showed greater amounts of physical activity were associated with ample brain volume.
“We found that walking five miles per week protects the brain structure over 10 years in people with Alzheimer’s and MCI, especially in areas of the brain’s key memory and learning centers,” said Dr. Cyrus Raji. “We also found that these people had a slower decline in memory loss over five years.”
The RSNA cites a statistic from the National Institute on Aging, which revealed between 2.4 million and 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, and the number is expected to increase greatly over the next ten years.
Memory loss and cognitive changes characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, while they can’t be reversed, can be delayed over the short term. The Rush Memory and Aging Project, a large study which examined common problems of aging as they relate to cognitive and motor function and risk of Alzheimer’s, is continuously updated with input from scholarly publications and be found on the Rush University Medical Center website. The research clearly demonstrates that stimulating the brain can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s, at least in the early stages of the disease.
Some research also seems to suggest that interacting with others – healthy people who are socially active – leads sufferers to experience fewer memory problems than those who are more isolated.
It is, however, key to skip formal mental exercises as they may cause stress her which actually makes symptoms to worsen.
Too much social activity can also be stressful. Outings are best when low-key (small dinners as opposed to, say, big parties) and when they last under two hours.
Scientists are also investigating dietary solutions for people with dementia such as antioxidants. Clinical trials have shown vitamin E helps slow down mental impairment in people with Alzheimer’s and also protects cells against damage. Those same studies are also looking at treatments in conjunction with B vitamins. One 2005 study found that healthy people who ingested more than 400 micrograms of the B vitamin folate cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s in half.
As for medications, there are currently five FDA-approved drugs in use to delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Aricept (donepezil)
- Exelon (rivastigmine)
- Razadyne (galantamine)
- Cognex (tacrine hydrochloride)
- Namenda (memantine)
Not every one of the drugs on the list works for all patients, and all include possible side effects or undesirable interactions with other drugs, so consultation with a doctor is crucial before using any of them.
Those who have the disease rely on life insurance so they can pay for their medical treatment, which shows the financial security it provides when people need it most.
Can dementia be stopped?
How long does it take to die from Alzheimer’s?
Is Alzheimer’s a terminal illness?
How does Alzheimer’s disease work?