Page Description: Several studies and testimonies show that regular exercise plays a significant role in preventing and controlling a lot of health challenges, including Mental health. Exercise boosts mental health, improves cardiovascular health and blood circulation, enhances flexibility, prevents the risk of developing health issues, and helps a person lead a healthy lifestyle.
Regular exercise prevents the risk of progressive mental health issues like dementia which results in memory loss and the deterioration of cognitive and social abilities. Dementia can interfere with your daily life. Hence, in this article, we’ll explain all you need to know about dementia and the role of exercise in the prevention of dementia.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is a chronic disease that causes a decline in brain function. Its symptoms include forgetfulness, memory loss, difficulty in thinking, communication, calculation, organization, comprehension, judgment, orientation, problem-solving, and social abilities.
Dementia is often associated with old age, but it’s different from the natural deterioration caused by aging. When old age sets in, the person might begin to forget things and experience difficulty in recognizing people. The person might start to find it difficult to handle complex tasks and control his body activities like urinating and pooping. However, dementia results in memory loss that interferes with a person’s lifestyle. In this case, the person has to be taught what to do and not do afresh.
Alzheimer’s disease is a leading cause of dementia. Other causes of dementia include stroke, the abnormal lump of protein in nerve cells, decline of the brain’s frontal lobe, infections, high alcohol intake, and other factors that result in brain injury.
Dementia is a painful condition for patients and their loved ones. Imagine not being recognized by a family member, friend, or relative. Or not being able to relate to the sweet memories you share with them.
Alzheimer’s disease is the primary and most common cause of dementia. It is a progressive ailment that causes brain shrinkage and death of brain cells, leading to memory impairment and a decline in behavioral, cognitive, and social abilities. The memory impairment resulting from Alzheimer’s disease makes it difficult for a person to carry out daily tasks without help.
There’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, some medications and therapies help to manage the disease. Support from friends and loved ones also helps to control Alzheimer’s disease.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
Since Alzheimer’s disease is a primary cause of dementia, they both have the same symptoms. These symptoms include:
● Repetition of questions and statements
● Regular misplacement of things
● Forgetting familiar places
● Forgetting the names of family members and loved ones
● Difficulty in identifying objects
● Difficulty in reasoning and holding conversations
● Difficulty in thinking, comprehension, and concentration
● Inability to solve problems
● Change in personality and behavior
● Isolation and social withdrawal
● Mood instability
Although Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affect cognitive abilities, primary skills like reading, writing, dancing, talking, listening, doing crafts, and drawing are not lost, except in critical condition. They might get lost as the illness worsens, but that happens at the latter stage of the disease.
Treatment of dementia
There’s no cure for dementia but treatments, and the treatments depend on the cause of dementia. For dementia caused by malnutrition and harmful intake of alcohol, eating nutritious food and avoiding the intake of alcohol can help improve the situation. If dementia is caused by physical injury, treating the injuries can help to improve the situation.
Alzheimer’s dementia is treated using physical activities, therapy, and medication. Engaging in physical activity like exercise boost mental health and improve cognitive functionality.
A Special drug (aducanumab) and non-drug therapy sessions are combined in treating dementia. These sessions help to remove and prevent the cluster of amyloid (a kind of protein) in the brain, leading to an improvement in brain health and a slowdown in the decline of cognitive abilities.
Risk factors for dementia
Risk factors are the biological, health, and environmental factors that put a person at risk of developing an ailment. The risk factors for dementia do not cause dementia, but they increase the chances of developing it.
Most risk factors are lifestyles, underlying ailments, or habits. We can control some risk factors, but others are beyond our control.
Here’s a list of 7 controllable risk factors for dementia.
Older adults and people between the age of 45 to 65 suffering from diabetes(type 2) have higher chances of developing dementia, especially vascular dementia. Hence, it is necessary to manage diabetes properly.
- High blood pressure
High blood pressure affects heart function and blood circulation, which increases the chances of developing dementia. Older adults and people in mid-life stages suffer from hypertension the most, putting them at risk of developing dementia.
Obesity increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure which are both causative factors of dementia. Frequently check your weight and engage in activities that help to balance body weight.
- Lack of exercise or physical activity
Lack of exercise puts a person at risk of becoming obese and developing heart-related issues, which can lead to the development of dementia. Exercise is beneficial for our overall health. So, it’s important to dedicate at least an hour daily to exercise at all stages of life.
Eating food that is low in fiber and high in saturated sugar, salt, and fat increases the possibility of developing high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and diabetes. These sicknesses all lead to chronic illness, including dementia.
Research shows that smokers are highly at risk of developing dementia because the smoke blocks or narrows the arteries, which causes an increase in blood pressure. Smoking also increases the chances of developing cancer and heart diseases which can cause dementia.
- High intake of alcohol
Alcohol has shown an increase in the chances of developing dementia. Excessive intake of alcohol can lead to a breakdown in the nervous system, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer that puts a person at risk of developing dementia.
Other controllable risk factors of dementia include low cognitive and social engagement, physical head injury, depression, hearing impairment, trauma, social isolation, heart disease, and pollution.
Here’s a list of non-controllable risk factors for dementia.
Dementia is not part of aging. However, aging is a leading cause of dementia. The aging population is more at risk of dementia when compared to the young population.
Women are more prone to developing dementia than men. There is no conclusive research on why it is so, but some researchers propose that high estrogen levels in women can cause dementia. Also, the fact that women live longer than men could be a causative factor.
Dementia is not hereditary, but gene mutation or an alteration in PSEN1 PSEN2, and APP could result in dementia. An alteration in parents’ genes puts their children at risk of dementia.
- Chronic medical conditions
Medical conditions like Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, HIV, chronic kidney diseases, and other developmental disorders can increase the risk of developing dementia.
Prevention of dementia
There’s no conclusive measure to prevent dementia. However, fitness and leading a healthy lifestyle are significant in preventing dementia. When a person is physically active, the person becomes less prone to diseases.
Regular physical activity such as exercise is beneficial for physical, cardio, and brain health. Exercise helps to rejuvenate the body, burn fat, and improve mood, sleep, and sexual stimulation. It also slows down mild cognitive decline, reduces stress, treats stroke, prevents the risk of developing heart issues, stabilizes heart rate, strengthens the bones and muscles, improves brain health, prevents obesity, fights depression, and reduces dementia risk.
Exercise reduces dementia risk by sharpening learning, reasoning, and thinking skills. It also improves memory retention by expanding the size of the hippocampus responsible for memory formation and slows down the development of dementia for people prone to it.
Regular physical activity boosts metabolism irrespective of age and increases the secretion of chemicals that helps to protect the brain. The effect of protective chemicals produced during exercise is active in aged people and people prone to Alzheimer, dementia, and other cognitive diseases.
Exercise also increases the levels of the protein that promotes synapse communication. Synapse is the point of interaction between nerve cells. Synaptic interaction triggers thinking and memory retention. Hence, synapses improve cognition.
The more exercise or physical activity a person engages in, the greater the level of synaptic protein in the brain. That’s to say, the higher your synaptic level, the sharper your cognitive abilities. And although there is no conclusive research on the relationship between synapses and dementia’s treatment, researchers believe that synapses could inhibit the start of dementia or slow down its progress.
Other ways of preventing dementia besides regular exercise include:
● Proper and healthy dieting
● Avoid alcohol
● Routine checkups for infection and other causes of dementia
● Maintain body weight
● Quit smoking
● Stabilize blood pressure
● Treat infections
● Stimulate your brain regularly by engaging in activities that boost cognitive abilities
● Proper Management of health issues like diabetes, stroke, and arthritis
Aerobic exercises are mainly exercises that use oxygen to burn fuel or energy. They are mostly referred to as cardiovascular or heart conditioning because they help to boost heart health and the functionality of other vital organs that aid in breathing and blood circulation.
Although aerobic exercises are referred to as cardiovascular conditioning, they are physical activities that help to improve mental health when compared to anaerobic exercises. Studies show that aerobic exercises enhance focus, thinking, memory, retention, and information processing.
Examples of aerobic exercise include running, walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, jumping, skipping, dancing, rowing, skiing, Zumba, squats, pushups, lunges, stair mill, stationary biking, kickboxing, cardio dancing, and Kinrgy.
Exercise is significant in treating and preventing dementia and other cognitive diseases. Besides fitness, it stimulates brain activity and boosts behavioral, cognitive, and social skills.
We should make exercise part of our daily routine irrespective of age to help prevent the development of dementia. At least 60 to 90 minutes of workout daily is recommended to help protect people suffering from dementia, and those prone to it.