Could this be the best way to prevent dementia? 35



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The race is on to better understand and prevent dementia, which currently affects 330,000 Australians and is predicted to increase to one million people in the next 40 years.

Many theories have been put forward for how best to fight the disease, and Sussan Ley, Minister for Health, The Ageing and Sports and Recreation, this week announced the government will give $43 million to support “bold and innovative new ideas” to tackle both the impacts of dementia and also find ways to prevent and cure the disease.

The money will be shared among seventy-six researchers, one of which will focus on a promising area – the role of intense exercise in protecting the brain from dementia.

Dr Ashleigh Smith from the University of South Australia will use her fellowship grant of almost $600,000 to explore the effects of targeted physical exercises to improve the brain health of older adults with mild cognitive impairments who are at risk of developing dementia.

Dr Smith says, “Effective early regenerative strategies are critical to reduce the burden of dementia in the community. Engaging in frequent aerobic exercise is one strategy that can delay the onset and slow the progression of dementia. However, prescription is limited by an incomplete understanding of how exercise positively influences brain health.

“I will investigate the influence of current exercise levels, intensity and exercise environment on brain health in adults at risk of dementia.”

The link between exercise and dementia prevention is strong, with Nicola Lautenschlager Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at the University of Melbourne, telling Radio National it could prevent up to 30 per cent of Alzheimer’s cases.

She said exercise can be of benefit for mental health and cognition, even in people who have already been diagnosed with mild Alzheimer’s disease.

Although research is continuing into this area, Professor Lautenschlager says it’s believed that a casual stroll around the block will not suffice; for exercise to provide preventative effects, it needs to be vigorous, which means working up a sweat, increasing your breathing and heart rate.

“More recently the evidence also showed that you can improve the benefits for cognition if you combine that with resistance training, training specifically the muscle groups with weightlifting,” she added.

Would you consider doing more strenuous exercises if it would protect you from dementia?


Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Exercise is one important aspect, I also believe that improving the cognitive function can only help to enhance exercise in a positive way. I have just recently joined a gym, having been lain up with a second bout of pneumonia a few months ago my exercise routine has been disrupted. I have almost completed a diploma of counselling and will be starting either a bachelor of psychology or a bachelor of sociology next year. Just doing regular crosswords will help to keep the brain ticking over.

  2. Keeping active both physically and mentally is important at any age, but exercising can become more difficult if you have health issues. My Mum succumbed to vascular dementia in her latter years despite being active all her life – she walked everywhere, worked hard in the garden, was involved in the community, read and did puzzles regularly. She also ate a healthy diet – she did all the right things. There are no guarantees sadly.

    3 REPLY
    • My mother was a very active slim and healthy woman and now at the age of 85 has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

    • This is true, and we do well to remember it. That doesn’t mean that we don’t do the recommended things, they just don’t guarantee perfect health.

    • My Dad suffered with Vascular Dementia. I have often wondered if his smoking had anything to do with it?

  3. StStrenuous physical exercise and regular mental exercise both have beneficial effects as we age. Unfortunately many people think that as they age they should take it easy and before they know it they have sunk into a sedentary lifestyle. The jury is still out on wether or not exercise helps prevent dementia but it certainly doesn’t do any harm. Levels of intensity may depend upon the individual and physical well being. I guess if we knew for sure that strenuous exercise did in fact protect us from dementia then there would be thousands of us baby boomers out pounding the pavement, peddling bikes and loosing gallons of sweat in gyms across the country as we gallantly attempt to make up for the years spent without regular exercise.
    Of course we had better hope that the old ticker can stand up to it.

  4. No…..arthritis for me needs gentle exercise and loads of rest when I’ve overdone it….no medication at this stage and delaying meds with diet n care…..housework n garden shopping n driving car as far as it goes at the mo

  5. How come most of our forebears seemed to go through life without sweaty workouts and lived a long and healthy life? Was it more natural nutrition, less stress or genetics. None of my family members, on both sides, suffered dementia and they lived long healthy lives. It’s a mystery!

    3 REPLY
    • They did not have TV and remote control, fancy tools and gadgets to make life easy, children played outside, they walked to school or work, their daily life was a lot more physical… Today we spend more time sitting at work, at home etc… This is why it is important to remember to exercise.

    • Allison Hulse They have , but unfortunately many of the 80 plus ones with dementia these days, would have had the outside play, the walking to the tram, all their young lives. I do think it is a by product of living longer. None the less the longer you can exercise, do crosswords, partake of social activities etc., the better.

  6. Our parents/grandparents did a lot more physical work than we do. It was just part of life. We’ve gotten soft and we’re paying the consequences.

  7. I’m sure that vigorous exercise has its merits,but a lot of us,as has been stated,suffer some problems that won’t allow that. Mind you,Vivienne’s suggestion of Aquarobics is great. I worry when there appears to be such a large amount given by government towards finding a solution for Al

    1 REPLY
    • Sorry tried to scroll and posted instead. I worry that the money is given in so many directions,which become little bits that then aren’t quite enough to fulfil their mission. Hopefully,we will get a cure soon for this cruellest of diseases.

  8. I’m not sure if the academics know what they are talking about or the health issues some seniors suffer. Of course you might not get Alzheimer’s because all the exercise and weight lifting might kill you first.

  9. My mother lived to be 93 without a trace of dementia and without any physical exercise (except housework) her entire life. She did however have a good social life and did lots of crossword puzzles, read copious amounts of fiction, and learnt to use a tablet. She also ate healthily, never smoked and drank in moderation. So you will not convince me that I need to start a rigorous exercise programme!

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