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Exercising - an ally against dementia

The first signs of dementia can be increased forgetfulness, repetition of the same questions or even confusing the time or day. Especially in its early stages, the symptoms are subtle and often interpreted as normal signs of aging, by those affected and their loved ones.

But dementia is on the rise, with approximately 48 million people affected worldwide. Dementia develops as we age and is characterized by a progressive loss of mental faculties. While less than two percent of people over the age of 60 are affected by it, the percentage rises to between 30% and almost 50% for people over the age of 90. Due to our increasing life expectancy, the number of people suffering from dementia has rapidly increased and could multiply in the future.

Dementia develops as a result of complex, neurodegenerative processes that lead to the loss of function and death of nerve cells. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer's disease. Despite intensive research, the causes of Alzheimer's disease remain unknown. Scientists suspect a connection between the increased deposition of the proteins tau and beta-amyloid in the brain, however the role they play in the development of the disease has not been clearly confirmed.

In addition, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia remain untreatable. Drug therapies and psychosocial measures can alleviate the symptoms and slow down the progress of the disease, but they cannot stop it. As a rule, Alzheimer's disease shows a gradual deterioration with an increasing need for help and usually leads to death within eight to ten years.

For this reason, science not only focuses on the treatment, but also on the prevention of dementia. Recently, an effective ally has emerged in the fight against dementia – exercise.

In a large number of studies, the positive influence of physical activity on brain function and mental performance has been demonstrated. This neuroprotective effect is based on different mechanisms. Research has shown that cerebral blood flow increases, more growth hormones are produced, and at the same time the formation of free radicals decreases. In addition, inflammatory processes are inhibited and the concentration of alzheimer-specific deposits is reduced. Furthermore, exercising does not only act preventively. Alzheimer's patients can also benefit from exercise. Especially in early stages of the disease, it can positively influence the course and improve a patient's mental performance.

Sports and exercise are among the most important preventative lifestyle factors against dementia. The impact is more effective the sooner a person starts and the more regularly they train. However, it is never too late to start. Even those who start at an older age can benefit from its effect. Regular exercise is a cheap and low-impact measure to help reduce the risk of dementia. Not only does it keep your brain and body healthy, it also reduces the risk of many other age-related illnesses and improves your quality of life into old age.

Image 1 © “Vasyl” / Fotolia.com

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