Without a doubt, an Alzheimer's disease
diagnosis is perhaps the most frightening
prognosis that can be received. Debilitating
at best, Alzheimer's symptoms are so serious
that most people with advanced stage
Alzheimer's require full-time care.
Although much progress has been made in the
fields of Alzheimer's medication, Alzheimer's
care and even Alzheimer's treatment,
researchers have thus far been unable to pin
down the elusive Alzheimer's cure.
The Alzheimer's Association speaks of two
Alzheimer's research goals: 1. To prevent
onset of the disease in those who are at risk
but not yet afflicted; 2. To treat and delay
progression of the disease in those who
already have the symptoms.
While Alzheimer's disease treatment is surely
an admirable goal, and one that we all need to
support, focusing on Alzheimer's prevention
may yield more immediate results.
Alzheimer's disease prevention tips provided
by the Alzheimer's Assoc include staying
mentally active, being socially involved and
adopting a brain-healthy diet (a low-fat,
low-cholesterol diet full of vegetables).
Recent Alzheimer's disease research has also
discovered a link between regular exercise and
a decreased risk of contracting the illness.
"A study in Finland of 1,500 elderly people
found that those who were obese in middle age
were twice as likely to develop dementia when
they got old as those who were of normal
weight. For those who also had high
cholesterol and high blood pressure in middle
age, the risk of dementia was six times higher
than those who were not affected" (source:
Philadelphia (Reuters); Mon Jul 19, 3:42 PM
ET; by Jon Hurdle).
Professor of neuroscience and psychiatry and
at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Joseph T. Coyle
states that regular mental and physical
activity may help to improve the chances of
Alzheimer's prevention: "Crossword puzzles are
not bad for you, and they may actually help
prevent the onset of dementia. So I would say
get regular exercise.....and find a hobby that
you enjoy that's intellectually challenging".
Yet another expert to weigh in on the
Alzheimer's exercise link is Dr. Lawrence
Whalley with the School of Medicine at
Scotland's University of Aberdeen. "Basically,
whatever's good for your heart is good for
your head. Mortality of vascular disease in
the United States was halved between 1965 and
1995, and this is one of the great
public-health successes of the 20th century.
And what people are looking for in dementia
prevention is the same, because the factors
that everyone knows predispose to heart
disease also predispose to dementia".
If regular exercise can indeed help to prevent
Alzheimer's disease, then how much exercise is
needed? Less than you might think. Researchers
from Sweden found that ".....those who, in
their middle years, exercised during their
free time at least twice a week were 60
percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's
disease compared to sedentary men and women
who exercised less than twice a week. The
active individuals were also 50 percent less
likely to develop other forms of dementia and
memory loss" (source: alzinfo.org).
What the public needs to realize, however, is
that just any old workout won't necessarily
deliver the Alzheimer's preventing power they
seek. In the Sweden study, for example,
exercise was defined as physical activity
lasting at least 20 to 30 minutes and intense
enough to cause breathlessness and sweating.
That's a far cry from the lightweight, low
impact and effortless 'exercise' embraced by
many weekend workout buffs.
The bottom line is that, while scientists
still haven't identified an Alzheimer's cause
or cure, the amount of Alzheimer's information
we have available has given us some useful
tools to help us prevent this dreaded disease.
One such resource is regular exercise, which
has been proven to reduce the risk of
Alzheimer's disease in the majority of people.
While there is certainly no guarantee that
consistent exercise, or any other treatment
for that matter, will provide full Alzheimer's
protection, it can be stated with certainty
that those people who regularly engage in
strenuous exercise will lower their risk of
Alzheimer's. This fact, added to all the other
myriad benefits of regular exercise, makes a
strong case trying to stay active.