Dancing Benefits The Aging Brain

Doctors have long recommended physical exercise to reduce or delay the onset of dementia as people age. But a new study indicates that dancing may give even greater benefits than other forms of exercise.

Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld compared the effects of different kinds of exercise on volunteers with an average age of 68. Over 18 months, participants took part in either traditional fitness training with repetitive exercises like cycling or Nordic walking, or dance lessons which featured something new each week.

The study measured changes in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is connected with learning, memory, and balance, and is affected by Alzheimer’s and similar diseases. In both groups, the hippocampus region of the brain increased. The dancers had a noticeable improvement in balance.

The dance routines varied and included jazz, square dance, line dance, and Latin. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Other studies have found similar benefits to dancing:

A study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that brain-stimulating activities such as reading, writing, and doing puzzles lowered the risk of dementia by 47 percent. This study did not find that regular bicycling, swimming, or team sports lowered the risk of dementia significantly. But ballroom dancing reduced the risk of developing dementia by 67 percent!

A study from Korea found that seniors who learned to dance the Cha Cha improved their memory and cognitive function over six months when compared to controls. A study from Canada found that seniors who danced the tango twice a week improved their cognitive scores.

The challenge of constantly learning a variety of new things may be one of the keys to the success of dance in improving mental ability. Dance requires a combination of mental and physical activity – dancers must remember the steps and executive them in rhythm. Also, dance is usually accompanied by music, and music has also been found to benefit people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Music stimulates memories and positive emotions, and body response to rhythms; music can also have the effect of making people more outgoing and sociable.

For more information on Alzheimer’s and dementia, see the Alzheimer’s Section of Guide To Long Term Care.

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Eye Scan for Alzheimer’s

Scanning the eyes is a new way to detect Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California say Alzheimer’s affects the retina, in the back of the eye, in a similar way to how it affects the brain. A high-definition eye scan can show the buildup of toxic proteins that indicate Alzheimer’s.

The plaque showing in the retina matches the plaque in a corresponding part of the brain. Through repeated scans of the retina over time, doctors will be able monitor the progression of the disease.

At one time, the only way to diagnose Alzheimer’s was by examining the brain after a person died. Now doctors can use brain scans to diagnose the disease in living patients, but these scans are expensive and invasive. The non-invasive eye scans will help doctors to detect the disease earlier, making it possible to intervene with medications and lifestyle changes before more symptoms appear.

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If you do not plan for your long term care who will? See the Guide To Long Term Care for more information on Alzheimer’s and how to prepare for long term care needs.

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Nine lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk

Nine factors that contribute to the risk of dementia

  • Mid-life hearing loss – responsible for 9% of the risk
  • Failing to complete secondary education – 8%
  • Smoking – 5%
  • Failing to seek early treatment for depression – 4%
  • Physical inactivity – 3%
  • Social isolation – 2%
  • High blood pressure – 2%
  • Obesity – 1%
  • Type 2 diabetes – 1%

These risk factors – which are described as potentially modifiable – add up to 35%. The other 65% of dementia risk is thought to be potentially non-modifiable.
READ  ARTICLE HERE

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Note: Insure before the diagnosis. Once diagnosed insurance is no longer available.

 

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Deaths from Alzheimer’s disease rising

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From 1999 to 2014, United States deaths from Alzheimer’s disease rose by 54.5 percent. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Alzheimer’s death rate rose during those 15 years from 16.5 to 25.4 deaths per 100,000 people. In 2014, 93,541 people died from Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s, the leading cause of dementia and the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, caused 3.6 percent of deaths in 2014.

Researchers expect rates will continue to rise as life expectancy increases. About 5.5 million Americans are living with the disease. That number is expected to rise to 16 million by 2050.

There is a trend for more people with Alzheimer’s to die at home rather than a medical facility. The number of Alzheimer’s patients dying at home increased from 13.9 percent to 24.9 percent from 2009 to 2014. During the same time period, the number of who died from Alzheimer’s in medical facilities fell from 14.7 percent in 1999 to 6.6 percent in 2014.

The disease mainly affects people over the age of 65. The rise in Alzheimer’s cases is attributed to the increasing numbers of older people, as medical improvements have led to fewer deaths from conditions such as heart disease. However, some of the increase may be the result of more accurate reporting by doctors.

At this time there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. It is the leading cause of long term care insurance claims. To plan for possible long term care needs in the future, see the Guide To Long Term Care.

Planning to buy long term care insurance at some point? Remember you must buy before the diagnosis. There are many conditions like Alzheimer’s that are uninsurable, here is a partial list: Are You Insurable?

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Listening to their favorite music may help people with dementia

Nursing home residents with dementia had fewer behavior problems and were able to cut back on antipsychotic and antianxiety drugs when they listened often to their favorite music, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Brown University in Providence, RI studied over 25,000 residents in 196 nursing homes around the country. They used a program called Music & Memory which provides Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with individualized music playlists.

In a national campaign led by Medicare, gerontology experts and patient advocates are seeking non-pharmacologic interventions to reduce the use of antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications.

In nursing homes that used the program, residents with dementia were more likely to discontinue antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications, and engaged in fewer disruptive behaviors, than in homes where the music was not used. However, the study did not show a significant improvement in mood.06_ALIVE-INSIDE_Photo-Courtesy-of-BOND360

Caregivers and family members in a documentary called “Alive Inside,” say that personalized music helps even patients with highly advanced dementia. They observe that patients look more at ease after listening to their favorite music.

The researchers studied residents who had dementia and cognitive impairment, but were not in hospice care or comatose.

The rate of discontinuation of antipsychotics rose to 20.1 percent in 2013 compared to 17.6 percent in a similar period before. The discontinuation rate of anti-anxiety meds rose to 24.4 percent compared to 23.5 percent before. In the studied nursing homes that did not use the music program, the rates did not improve.

Behavioral improvement increased to 56.5 percent in program homes from 50.9 percent before the program. Improvement in the behavior of residents helps the treated patients, but also enhances the quality of life for residents around them. Also, improvement in patients’ behavior raises the morale of nursing home staff, and may reduce staff turnover.

The study was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. To improve their evaluation, Baier, Thomas and their colleagues plan to conduct a second study. 

Nursing home or memory care can be costly. Long term care insurance provides not only money for care but a support system for both those needing care and their families. For more about long term care and insurance visit GuideToLongTermCare

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Have You Had The Conversation?

The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end of life care. They offer a collection of “Conversation Starter Kits” that you can download for free.

Talking with loved ones openly and honestly, before a medical crisis happens, ensures that everyone understands what matters most to each individual at the end of life. You can use a starter kit for yourself, or to help others communicate their wishes.

conversation2There are several different kits: for families and loved ones of people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias; how to choose a health care proxy and how to be a health care proxy; how to talk to your doctor or nurse about your wishes; and one for parents of a seriously ill child.

There are starter kits in English, Spanish, Mandarin, French, Hebrew, Korean, Russian, Vietnamese, and Hindi.

Organizations can purchase printed copies to distribute and add their logos.

The cost of care can be devastating, the national average is over $7,000 per month. To plan means to be insured before needing care, even before the diagnosis and not everyone can health-qualify for insurance (Can You Qualify?).

To find out more about long term care insurance see the Guide To Long Term Care

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U.S. Congress increases money for Alzheimer’s research

Congress just increased the budget for Alzheimer’s research by $400 million for fiscal year 2017. In 2016 the budget for Alzheimer’s at the National Institutes of Health was about $910 million.

The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to reach 14 million by 2050. It is estimated that for every $100 that goes into research, around $16,000 is spent in caring for people with the disease.

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Money for research has greatly improved the outlook for heart disease and cancer patients. In 2017, health and long term care costs for Alzheimer’s came to around $259 billion in the United States. That number is expected to rise to $511 billion by 2020. Since not finding a cure is expensive, more funding for Alzheimer’s research is obviously needed.

For more information on Alzheimer’s and long term care, see the Guide To Long Term Care.

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