Exercise has been touted to bring huge benefits that can help people with Alzheimer's or memory loss. In many ways, exercise positively affects our health, including our brain.
In this article, we explore how exercise can help prevent or at least slow the progression of this disease. Read on to learn more about exercise and dementia.
What Is Alzheimer's Disease?
Known to be the most common form of dementia that can affect people, Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disease. It affects parts of the brain responsible for memory, thought, and language.
Usually, this disease starts with a mild form of memory loss, but it can lead to a person losing their ability to create conversations and even react to their environment. As it progresses, it seriously impacts a person's ability to do daily tasks.
In 2020, it is estimated that around 5.8 million Americans, 65 years or older, suffer from Alzheimer's disease. Additionally, experts project that this number will balloon to 14 million by 2060.
This disease was Americans' 10th most common cause of death in 2020. It's the 6th leading cause among U.S. adults and 5th among Americans 65 years or older.
Also, Alzheimer's disease is usually an under-reported cause of death, so the figures may likely be higher.
Warning Signs to Look Out For
Alzheimer's is not something a person can get because they grow old, and it's not a normal part of the aging process, even though many dismiss memory loss – one of its warning signs – as one.
There are several symptoms of Alzheimer's. Here are some of the warning signs to look out for, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
1. Memory loss that negatively impacts a person's daily life
This may include becoming lost in a place a person was familiar with or repeating a question they asked just seconds or minutes ago.
2. Difficulty in handling finances
A person with Alzheimer's may start to find handling money and bills difficult and troublesome.
3. Trouble performing familiar tasks
A person with Alzheimer's may find it difficult to perform tasks that they were used to doing, whether it be at home, for work, or for leisure.
4. Poor Judgment
Usually, people afflicted by this disease start developing poor or decreased levels of judgment.
5. Behavioral changes
Some people with this disease sometimes develop a change in personality and behavior.
6. Trouble retracing steps
Some people with this disease find it difficult to remember where they were a few moments ago. This is usually noticeable when they misplace items and find it hard to backtrack and remember where they were.
Exercise and Alzheimer's
Numerous studies have surfaced about what can slow down Alzheimer's or help those at risk of the disease prevent having it.
According to research, exercise is one of the most helpful things a person can do to reduce the possibility of getting Alzheimer's. Multiple studies have touted that exercise can help increase one's chances of preventing the disease.
But how can exercise help? Here are three ways:
1. Exercise Helps Improve Cardiovascular Health
Our body is interconnected, and our cardiovascular and nervous systems are inevitably linked.
Poor cardiovascular health may cause our blood flow to be impaired or disrupted. Since our brain needs the oxygen that our blood delivers, a disrupted or inefficient flow of blood to it may impair the brain's function. This could lead to worsening the state of the brain.
Exercise is one of the most helpful activities a person can do to improve cardiovascular health. A healthy diet, losing weight, and avoiding a smoking habit can help prevent or treat cardiovascular conditions that may cause lower blood flow to the brain.
2. Exercise May Help with Depression
As per a 2015 review in Australian Prescriber, as many as 30% of those who have Alzheimer's disease may experience depression. This state of mind can also worsen memory loss among people with dementia.
However, exercise helps stimulate hormone production and create neurotransmitters connected to one's mood and memory. Some of these hormones and neurotransmitters include enkephalins, endorphins, and serotonin – the former two may influence memory retention, while the latter helps in picking up one's mood and enhancing one's memory.
3. Regular Exercise May Help in Preventing or Possibly Reversing Cognitive Impairment
Many argue that aerobic exercise is best for people with Alzheimer's or dementia. Studies have found evidence that regular aerobic exercise brings benefits and aids in preventing cognitive function loss.
Researchers have also found evidence that exercise can be considered the best theoretical treatment for Alzheimer's disease as it helps reverse the gene expression seen in the disease.
This applies to Alzheimer's patients who only have mild cases of cognitive impairment. It remains uncertain whether the same result would appear among those with moderate to severe cognitive function loss.
However, exercise can still help improve some functions in most older adults. For example, weight training helps improve selective attention since the person can focus the attention on the body's movement and counting repetitions.
The Role of Exercise in Brain Health
A simple lifestyle change can cause a chain reaction leading to something good. This can be said with exercise.
Many may not see a connection, but exercise has a significant role in keeping our brains healthy. Exercise affects many aspects of our body's health and function, including the brain. In many ways, this activity can aid one in keeping a healthy and sound mind and body.
If you want to do something to help prevent or lower your risk of being afflicted with dementia, it might be time to start incorporating exercise into your daily habit. Start an exercise routine today, and reap its many positive results in the long run.