Did you know that Alzheimer's disease is one of the top ten leading causes of death in the U.S.?
June happens to be Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. So let’s talk about it.
While the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s Disease is increasing age, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. Though a small percentage of the population with this disease develop symptoms earlier, the majority of the population with Alzheimer's begin developing symptoms after the age of 65.
The most widely recognized early symptom is difficulty retaining new information, but as it progresses, Alzheimer’s can disrupt a person's ability to complete everyday tasks, making them reliant on care-givers and loved ones for support.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s. While the healthcare field is working on a cure, this makes the matter of preventative health all the more crucial.
In fact, studies have shown that participating in regular exercise throughout your life can play a significant role in decreasing the risk of developing dementia as you age.
Aerobic exercise or “cardio” can impact age-related brain changes even in your later years. This three-year study found that individuals over the age of 70 who were physically active experienced less brain atrophy, or shrinkage of the brain, compared to those who were not. Why is this significant? Atrophy means loss of cells, and in the brain, losing cells means losing communication between different areas of the brain. This leads to changes in memory, thinking, and behavior. These changes can begin years before symptoms are even recognizable.
Since many of these changes happen over time, The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a list of 10 Warning Signs to help you identify symptoms in yourself or a loved one:
Some changes in memory are a normal part of the aging process. We all misplace our keys occasionally or forget what day of the week it is. If these behaviors become more common, however, don’t wait to speak to your doctor. Early intervention can increase your chances of relieving symptoms and maintaining independence.
Finding the appropriate exercise routine can become more challenging as we age. People with dementia and Alzheimer’s frequently struggle with balance and coordination, putting them at a greater risk for falls and subsequent injuries. Physical therapists are movement experts who can work with you and your loved ones to determine your needs and establish a program that is safe and effective.
Research has shown that physical therapy can also help improve mood and reduce aggression, two factors that are commonly associated with the progression of Alzheimer’s. In fact, this study revealed that individuals with Alzheimer’s who participated in regular physical therapy for 3 months demonstrated improved physical health, decreased depression, and reduced rates of behavior-related hospitalization. What’s even more significant, these improvements were still noted 21 months later.
In addition to helping patients, physical therapists can help ease the burden on caregivers by educating them on how to properly assist with physical activities and providing strategies for creating a safer home environment.
Dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease can be frustrating and difficult for individuals and their loved ones. Physical therapy can help you manage some of these stresses and improve the quality of your or your loved one’s life by helping them maintain their independence as long as possible.