Dementia and old age cognitive decline is one of the most feared mental health diseases of today’s era. The history of dementia can be linked back to the earliest human civilization, but the latest medical advancements have made it is easier to study the disease and its symptoms in detail. Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a set of symptoms including memory loss and other mental behaviors that can be severe enough to interfere with routine life. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the most common forms of dementia which has affected up to 5.4 million Americans and more than 30 million people worldwide. The disease is spreading at an alarming rate and by 2050 it is expected to have affected 160 million people globally, including 13 million Americans.
This is why, it is very important to take care of your mental wellbeing and get yourself checked regularly. One of the easiest ways to self-assess your mental health is to take a dementia test online and get the results diagnosed by a doctor.
Dementia can be a difficult diagnosis to accept, but don’t despair as there is still hope. According to a new research by UCLA and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, natural therapies and carefully planned activities can not only slow down the progress of the disease but can also reverse it.
There are many physical activities which can benefit a person with dementia. Try to come up with fun filled activities that make the patient feel accomplished and promote self-esteem. If they have an element of enjoyment and social contact, the activities will be even more beneficial. Before planning any activity, however, it is important to assess the patient’s cultural background and lifestyle. Learn about their personality and identify their hobbies and interests. Start with short sessions so that you don’t overstimulate the person.
Here are the top 5 physical activities that can slow down dementia in the long run:
Walking is one of the easiest activities that you can plan with a loved one. Not only is it free, but also one of the best exercises to accomplish your fitness goals. Walking helps the patients to fulfill the restless need to wander off, which is a typical symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Start with short walks around the block and then gradually incorporate a purpose to the walks. Combine the daily walk with an errand such as going to the grocery store or walking the dog. This will make the patient feel more accomplished and in control.
According to a research by the American Academy of Neurology, any exercise which increases the heartrate and promotes blood flow is beneficial for dementia patients. Cardiovascular exercise decreases the production of harmful proteins in the brain that can impair cognition. Exercises such as walking or riding a stationary bike for 30 minutes a day is recommended by doctors to help overcome dementia symptoms.
But make sure that you accompany them at all times, as people with dementia have distorted visual perceptions and lack coordination. Therefore, it is important to choose a route that is calm and uncluttered.
2- Enroll in a gym
Care homes for dementia patients have now introduced specially designed gyms to promote their residents’ wellbeing. These gyms are very similar to the local gyms, but the equipment is specifically designed for people with dementia, especially for the elderly.
Try to find a gym near your locality which welcomes dementia patients. The exercises don’t have to be difficult. Try to focus on machines that are based on a hydraulic system and introduce exercises that involve light weights and gentle pushing.
Another excellent physical exercise that can slow down dementia is dancing. A research published in New England Journal of Medicine stated that dancing can reduce the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Go for freestyle dance as it requires constant decision-making skills which is essential for your brain to rewire its neural pathways. Making up your own dance steps can also help to increase cognitive reserve and increases the complexity of brain cells. In fact, freestyle dancing was shown to reduce the risk of dementia by 76% which is twice as much as reading, playing sports or performing choreographed dance moves.
Thrive, an organization that works for the betterment of people living with disabilities or ill health, stated in their research that people who were involved in gardening were at a lesser risk of dementia as compared to those who didn’t garden.
A garden is a place that is often associated with relaxation and meditation. It is refreshing for both the mind and the eye. Hence, gardening can prove to be a very beneficial activity for dementia patients as it promotes well-being of both the body and soul.
Gardening offers a multi-sensory stimulation that involves all our senses like sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, hence, stimulating overall cognitive functions and slowing down dementia.
5- Basic household chores
You may be surprised to read that basic household chores like cooking, dishwashing and vacuuming can help improve the brain health of a dementia patient. A study published in the journal of Neurology, stated that older adults in their 70s and 80s had twice the chances of developing Alzheimer’s compared to those who were physically active yet of the same age. In short, the more physically active you are, the lesser chance you have of memory loss and cognitive decline.
People in their 80s, who cannot opt for a formal exercise program, can still lead an active lifestyle by doing household chores. Encourage them to walk a few more steps than usual, do the dishes and cook a meal. All these activities require your brain cells to be active, hence, slowing down the progress of dementia.
Always remember that any physical activity that boosts your blood circulation and is performed regularly can bring about a big change in your mental wellbeing. There are countless researches that indicate the connection between physical activity and regression of dementia symptoms. Fuel your exercise routine with some brain food and healthy meals and you are ready to be in the best shape of your life!