Walking may slow mental decline in healthy people and adults with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the findings of a study published by the Radiological Society of North America. The 20-year study included 426 participants, including 299 healthy adults, 127 cognitively impaired adults, and 127 adults with MCI or Alzheimer’s dementia.
The most common reason for someone needing long-term care is that they have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Around 47 million people worldwide suffer from dementia. According to the World Alzheimer’s Report, if no medical breakthrough occurs, this figure could rise to 132 million by 2050.
According to one study, people with dementia accounted for four-fifths of all those in care homes worldwide.
The findings revealed that increased physical activity was associated with increased 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 National Institute on Aging statistic revealing that between 2.4 million and 5.1 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, with the number expected to rise dramatically over the next ten years.
While Alzheimer’s disease memory loss and cognitive changes cannot be reversed, they can be delayed in the short term. The Rush Memory and Aging Project, a large study that investigated common aging problems as they relate to cognitive and motor function and the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, is constantly updated with input from scholarly publications and can be found on the Rush University Medical Center website. The research clearly shows that stimulating the brain can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, at least in the early stages.
Some research also appears to suggest that interacting with others – healthy people who are socially active – leads to fewer memory problems in sufferers than in those who are more isolated.
It is critical, however, to avoid formal mental exercises because they may cause stress, which worsens her symptoms.
Excessive socialization can also be stressful. Outings are best when they are low-key (small dinners rather than large parties) and last less than two hours.
Scientists are also looking into dietary solutions for dementia patients, such as antioxidants. Clinical trials have shown that vitamin E slows cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients and protects cells from damage. Those same studies are looking into treatments that include B vitamins. According to one 2005 study, healthy people who consumed more than 400 micrograms of the B vitamin folate cut their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by half.
There are currently five FDA-approved medications in use to delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Aricept (donepezil)
- Exelon (rivastigmine)
- Razadyne (galantamine)
- Cognex (tacrine hydrochloride)
- Namenda (memantine)
Because not all of the drugs on the list work for all patients and all have potential side effects or undesirable interactions with other drugs, consulting with a doctor before using any of them is essential.
Those who have the disease rely on life insurance to pay for medical treatment, demonstrating the financial security it provides when people are most in need.