Preventing Alzheimer’s: Physical activity still the best bet!

An estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease (2010). This figure includes 5.1 million people aged 65and older and 200,000 individuals under age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s. One out of eight people age 65 and older (13 percent) has Alzheimer’s disease. Women, who on average live longer than men, are more likely than men to have Alzheimer’s disease.♦ Alzheimer’s is the most frequent cause of dementia, accounting for 70 percent of all cases of dementia in Americans aged 71 and older.♦ By 2030, all baby boomers will be at least 65 years old. That year, the number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is expected to reach 7.7 million, more than a 50 percent increase from the 5.1 million age 65 order older currently (2009) affected.


Cost of Alzheimer’s Disease

People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia’s are high users of health care, long-term care and hospice. Total payments for these types of care from all sources, including Medicare and Medicaid, are three times higher for older people with Alzheimer’s and other dementia’s than for other older people. As the number of people with these conditions grows in the future, payments for their care will increase dramatically. Direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer’s and other dementia’s in 2011 will amount to more than $172 billion.

A report last week from the Alzheimer’s Association predicts that 10 million baby boomers will develop Alzheimer’s disease in the United States — that translates to one out of every eight. For us “baby boomers,” this is frightening to say the least.

Exercise still best bet

There are new treatments on the horizon, but we all wonder whether or not they will be available in time for us or even our children. Let’s keep hoping for a cure or prevention model by supporting research in whatever way we can. Meanwhile, studies continue to point to physical exercise as the most effective therapy today to prevent Alzheimer’s.

Mounting evidence suggests that physical activity may have benefits beyond a healthy heart and body weight. Through the past several years, population studies have suggested that exercise which raises your heart rate for at least 30 minutes several times a week can lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. Physical activity appears to inhibit Alzheimer’s-like brain changes in mice, slowing the development of a key feature of the disease.

In one observational study, investigators looked at the relationship of physical activity and mental function in about 6,000 women age 65 and older, over an 8 year period. They found that the women who were more physically active were less likely to experience a decline in their mental function than inactive women.

Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of the Alzheimer’s Research Center at the Mayo Clinic, said on ABC: “Regular physical exercise is probably the best means we have of preventing Alzheimer’s disease today, better than medications, better than intellectual activity, better than supplements and diet.”

Read more in Greg’s book on Alzheimer’s MIND over MATTER!

Greg Ryan is an accomplished author, personal trainer, life coach and owner of Resolutions Preventative Health Care through Fitness for Seniors and Diabetics in St. Matthews.