Slow Alzheimer's By Exercising The Body And The Mind

Posted on July 18, 2014

Photo: flickr

Alzheimer's disease is one of the most feared diagnoses among patients. It destroys people's minds, their personalities, the very essence of who they are. And once the disease has been diagnosed, there is nothing modern medicine can do to stop it.

But it can be slowed, and a new study presented by researchers at the Karolinska Institut in Sweden gives some of the strongest evidence yet as to how: through physical exercise, through mental exercises and social interaction, by eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and by monitoring the same risk factors that lead to cardiovascular disease.

The bad news: Alzheimer's, in people who develop it, is still inexorable. The good news: even for people late in life who are already at high risk for developing the disease can benefit from changing their lifestyle. Patients in this study were between 60 years and 77 years old.

"This is a very important message," says Miia Kivipelto, the lead investigator of the study who presented the results at the annual meeting of the Alzheimer's Association. "It's still possible to do something for your brain when you are 70 years old."

The Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (somehow abbreviated FINGER) followed 1,260 patients in Finland who were at high risk of dementia and had cognitive performance that was either average for their age or worse for two years. They were randomly assigned into two groups. One, a control group, received the best medical advice available and regular cognitive testing. The other group got a battery of interventions.

Among the treatments:

- Seven group sessions and three individual sessions to help them improve their nutrition, focusing on adding fruits, vegetables, and fish, and avoiding saturated fats;
- Intensive exercise. Starting at three months into the study, they did muscle-building exercise once or twice a week and cardiovascular training two to four times a week. The weight training continued throughout the study, and the cardio ramped up to five or six times per week.
- They did cognitive training exercises. These were done in 11 group sessions over the course of the study, along with lots of independent training.
- To track heart disease risks like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, they saw a nurse every three months, with three visits to a physician over three years.

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Category(s):Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions

Source material from Forbes

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