Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible thing. It destroys a patient’s mind, memory, and personality, leaving them just a shadow of the person they once were. It is a degenerative disease, and once someone receives this dreaded diagnosis, there is nothing that medicine can do to prevent the decline. A new study does provide some hope, however. Though we still cannot stop the disease, it may be possible to slow its progression.
Patients in the study were all between the ages of 60 and 77. The study showed that making lifestyle changes, even this late in life, can help to slow down the disease. This study provides the strongest evidence to date that physical and mental exercise, together with social interaction and a healthy diet, can slow the deterioration caused by Alzheimer’s.
The research study’s lead investigator, Miia Kivipelto, presented the group’s findings at the annual Alzheimer’s Association meeting. Kivipelto said that this message is very important, because it shows that people can still do something to protect their brain functions, even when they are beyond 70 years old.
The study on preventing cognitive impairment and disability followed over 1,200 patients in Finland. These people had either average cognitive performance for their age, or cognitive skills which had been worse for two years. They were all deemed to be at high risk of dementia. Patients were randomly split into two groups. The control group received regular cognitive testing, along with the best medical advice that was available. The second group had a number of interventions.
- They had intensive exercise sessions, with muscle building workouts one or two times per week. At the beginning of the study, they did cardiovascular workouts two to four times per week, ramping this up to five or six sessions each week.
- They had cognitive training exercises, done in eleven group sessions during the study, together with significant independent training.
- They had both group and individual sessions on improving nutrition, with a focus on adding vegetables, fruit and fish to the diet, while avoiding most saturated fats.
- They also saw a nurse at three-month intervals, to monitor for high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Progress of patients in the two groups was measured with a series of tests covering memory, thinking speed, and executive functions. After two years of this treatment, the study showed that the test group had a statistically significant improvement compared to the control group. When researchers examined memory, the benefit to the test group was clear. For tests of psychomotor speed and executive function, Kivipelto said that the control group stayed stable, perhaps because of their level of medical care. However, the patients in the test group significantly improved.
Physical exercise (defined as at least three 30-minute sessions per week), has proven to be as good as, or better than, any type of pill that can be prescribed for people at risk of cognitive decline. He said that he was prepared to believe that other interventions beyond exercise could also yield benefits. There are still questions to be answered, but this study offers reason for hope.
Coping with Alzheimer’s disease
Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease is tough, especially for seniors who don’t want to lose their independence. Mental and physical changes will become inevitable, so it’s paramount to accept the illness. Try not to lose your temper, and don’t let your nerves get the best of you. Social isolation, anxiety and depression may also kick in. Rather than allow the disease to destroy your good mood, you should get as much support as possible from your loved ones. They will help you make the transition a lot faster.
Alzheimer’s is particularly common in seniors, who are in their 60s and 70s. The disease doesn’t have a cure, although many studies have been performed over the years. Some physicians argue that there are treatments that provide visible results; other on the other hand, recommends patients to enjoy life and not let this illness get to them. In some other circumstances, a patient may consider palliative care, which is an excellent type of medical care that offers relief from all the symptoms.
By Edward Francis and Foresthc.com!