Wednesday, June 12

Alzheimer’s Researchers Focusing On Both Care and Emphasizing Exercise

Currently, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, that number is projected to rise to 16 million by 2050. Additionally, over the next few years there will be a major shortage of doctors who can provide services to mental illness patients.

In fact, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the entire nation will be short more than 90,000 physicians over the next two years and a significant 130,000 physicians by 2025.

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s and those in the medical community are even unsure of what exactly causes this degenerative brain disease. Although much more research is needed, the focus will have to turn to care — no matter how many physicians are practicing.

“The way to end this is through research,” said Susan Antkowiak, vice president of programs and services for Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter. “But in the meantime, we do know caregivers and families can dramatically benefit from education about the disease, and learning about coping strategies and connecting with other families. Not going it alone.”

One reason this disease is difficult to self-diagnose is because all the misconceptions involved with memory loss. Although Alzheimer’s and memory loss are closely related, one doesn’t always mean the other.

According to Pocono Record, memory loss that disrupts daily life can be a symptom of Alzheimer’s (or other types of dementia), but it’s not the exact cause of the disease.

“Making connections is essential for creating long term memories,” said Dr. Kirk R. Daffner, director of the Center for Brain-Mind Medicine, and chief of the Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

The good news, however, is that following decades of research, for the first time, scientists are close to accounting for biological markers for dementia and Alzheimer’s. One of the most promising areas of early detection for Alzheimer’s is though neuroimaging (the process of images of brain activity through magnetic resonance) and emphasizing exercise among potential patients.

“The most important things you can do to protect yourself is eat healthy, stay at a healthy weight, get exercise and keep your blood pressure under control,” added Dr. Alaa Eldin A Mira, a geriatric medicine specialist in Bethlehem. “Don’t isolate yourself, be active in he community and engage with others.”

According to Newsweek, new recommendations state that focusing on exercise can not only improve memory functions, but slow dementia as well.

Dr. Ronald Peterson of the Mayo Clinic, a neurologist and lead author on the new guidelines posted in the journal Neurology, recommends that exercising at least twice a week (or 150 minutes per week) should help combat Alzheimer’s.

“This is an indication of where the field of cognitive function and aging is going,” Dr. Peterson added. “Ultimately, we’d like to identify people who are at risk of these conditions even when they’re clinically normal.”

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