Delay dementia with physical and mental exercise

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia is growing rapidly, affecting more than four million Americans. A recent study reports that it is one of the most expensive diseases in the U.S., with costs for care ahead of heart disease and cancer.

With public health authorities expecting the number of dementia cases to grow dramatically over the next 40 years, research continues on ways to delay and mitigate the effects of the disease.

While many studies have found that exercise and mental stimulation improve thinking skills of those with dementia, few studies have examined the effects of these two activities together. However, a recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association examined the combined effects of physical and mental exercise on 126 inactive older adults with dementia. After 12 weeks of regular physical and mental activity, the participants showed significant cognitive improvement. The authors of the study concluded that combined exercise and mental stimulation can have a greater impact on improving cognitive functioning than one activity alone.

Many workers in the senior health care industry understand the importance of physical and mental exercise for improving the quality of life of people living with Alzheimer’s. At our Bridges by EPOCH community in Hingham, the staff works hard to keep residents active, organizing a variety of physical and mental activities.

Residents regularly participate in gentle exercise and stretch classes. For mental stimulation, the community partners with ConnectedLiving, which hosts presentations to teach simple technology to seniors to help them connect with family and friends. An upcoming event is “Our Connected Community,” which will feature slideshows of photos provided by residents and their families to aid the memory process. Residents also participate in community projects to keep their minds engaged, including baking dog biscuits for a local animal shelter and bread for a local senior center.

Helping people with Alzheimer’s and dementia to adopt both physically and mentally active lifestyles is an important step in combating dementia’s devastating effects and helping them lead happier lives.

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