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Preventing Dementia With exercise

This week is Dementia Awareness Week with many charities such as the Alzheimer’s Society raising awareness of this debilitating condition. We hear a lot about the importance of mental agility and keeping our brains active in good working order as an antidote to the onset of dementia. But it seems physical activity is just as vital also.

Currently, some 800,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia, with 17,000 younger people included among them. In the next decade there will be over a million people living with this dreaded condition and two thirds of them will be women. Yet only 43% will ever get a diagnosis and only 700,000 carers will be involved in looking after them.

Currently, there is no cure for the majority of these dementias, and medication has so far proved disappointing once the condition has begun. Research into the underlying cause is painfully slow. That is why it is such good news that recent research has shown that sustained and regular exercise boosting stamina and endurance can halt the progress in most people of cognitive decline.

Excercise Can Help Prevent DementiaOver thousands of years, humans have evolved to become capable of sustained endurance activities. This increased aerobic capacity has benefits for metabolism and physiological function of the brain. A protein known as brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) is known to be important in the development, survival and plasticity of nerve cells called neurons, and important in protecting against neuro degeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Regular aerobic exercise boost the level of BDNF by 2-3 times and clearly the more often exercise is undertaken the more prolonged the effect. The decision making, dealing with stress and fear in our everyday life, our brains need to adapt and since exercise has been shown to enable us to do this, it may well explain how it can be effective in preventing depression, anxiety and other mental disorders.

It is frightening to know that around the world 7.7million new cases of dementia are diagnosed every year. With an ageing population that figure is growing all the time. So why not get exercising today and every day could well save you from one of the fates we all fear most.

If you are concerned about developing Dementia or are anxious about a friend or relative then there are plenty of organisations to turn to.

You may find a careline alarm useful in providing some peace of mind. It’s not always possible to be there 24/7 for a relative, but a careline alarm enables people to simply push a button worn around their neck. You can also include sensors such as Door Exit sensors if they are prone to wandering. If activated the alarm opens up a conversation with a trained care operator. The operators are trained to deal with dementia sufferers and provide immediate assistance is required. Contact your Local Authority or contact a company such as TeleCare24 who provide this service across the UK.

You can also get support from Charities such as:

Alzheimer’s Society
The Alzheimer’s Society has a national helpline on 0300 222 11 22 where their trained advisors can offer information, support and guidance. They also run Dementia Cafes locally where both carers and people with dementia get to meet others in similar circumstances and take part in engaging activities.

DementiaUK  aim to improve the quality of life for everyone affected by dementia. They provide a network of Admiral Nurses who specialise in dementia care as well as psychological support for family carers. You can contact them on 020 7697 4160 or via You can also call the Admiral Nursing Direct Helpline on 0845 257 9406.

Dementia Friends
Dementia Friends is an initiative run by the Alzheimer’s Society that aims to create one million dementia friends who can help people with this condition to live better lives.

by Dr Hilary Jones