by Karolina Kozlova, PT, DPT, Neurologic Clinical Specialist
In 1906, German physician Dr. Alois Alzheimer first described “a peculiar disease” — one of profound memory loss and microscopic brain changes — a disease we now know as Alzheimer’s. So how many of us have ruminated on the fear of losing our memory? Some assume that memory loss is a natural part of aging – think again! It’s normal to have occasional memory problems such as forgetting names of recent acquaintances; however, Alzheimer’s is more than that…it’s fatal, leaving no survivors. It destroys brain cells, causes erratic behaviors and memory changes as well as the loss of body function in people of all ages.
Alzheimer’s disease is also the most common form of dementia. It is estimated that for the US in the year 2020, healthcare related costs for treating this disease will be $305 billion and increase to $1.1 trillion by year 2050. However, these are only the estimated costs of medical care, not including the unpaid value of care that is provided by close friends and family – estimated to be around $240 billion.
The cause of Alzheimer’s disease has yet to be discovered. What researchers do know so far is that there is an overall shrinkage of brain tissue. Two abnormal structures called plaques and tangles are prime suspects in damaging and killing nerve cells. Even though scientists do not know exactly what role these two structures play in Alzheimer’s disease, most experts believe they play a critical role in blocking communication among nerve cells and disrupting processes that cells need to survive. It’s the destruction and death of nerve cells that causes memory failure, personality changes, problems carrying out daily activities and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
So, what can you do to help prevent mild cognitive decline as well as decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s? Good news…consistent physical activity!
The recommended dose is moderate intensity exercise (activity that increases your heart rate and makes you sweat, but isn’t’ so strenuous that you can’t hold a conversation while doing it) on most days for a weekly total of 150 minutes…that’s only 2.5 hours.
To help enhance neuroplastic changes and improve cognitive and psychosocial functioning as well as memory training, research recommends the following activities:
- Stimulating interventions: art, music, juggling, dancing
- Social interactions with friends and family
- Cognitively and physically challenging activities (best for neuroplastic changes)
- Combo: cognitive training, physical activity and, meds may slow neurodegeneration
So, get started today – start stimulating your mind and physical exercise to help decrease the loss of those beautiful brain neurons!
Dr. Karolina Kozlova, is a Neurologic Clinical Specialist practicing and taking new clients at Family Physical Therapy Services. Call today for an appointment at 603.644.8334. Help get your loved ones on the right track to slow the onset or progression of this devastating disease.