These very early mild cognitive changes are really the first signs of progressive dementia, in particular Alzheimer's disease according to a study led by Robert S.Wilson, neuropsychologist at Rush University Medical Cente.
The study involved over 350 nuns, priests and brothers who participated in Rush's Religious Orders Study and completed up to 13 years of annual cognitive testing. After death, the brains were examined for the lesions associated with dementia: neurofibrillary tangles, cerebral infarction (stroke), and Lewy bodies.
Researchers looked at the rate of change in cognitive function over time. The last four to five years of life showed a very rapid decline. The preceding years showed a much more gradual decline that would be described as normal aging.
As expected, pathologic lesions were related to the rapid decline, but researchers were somewhat surprised to find the pathology was very strongly predictive of the mild changes in cognitive function.
Higher tangle density adversely affected all forms of cognition at all trajectory points. Both Lewy bodies and stroke approximately doubled the rate of gradual memory decline, and almost no gradual decline was seen in the absence of lesions.
"Our study finds that Alzheimer's disease and related dementias are the root cause of virtually all loss of cognition and memory in old age. They aren't the only contributing factors; other factors affect how vulnerable we are to the pathology and to its effects. But the pathology does appear to be the main force that is driving cognitive decline in old age," said Wilson.
Recognizing that the earliest changes in memory are related to Alzheimer's pathology can lead to early diagnosis.
Although most adults begin to notice age-related memory glitches in their 40’s and 50’s, scientists believe the neurological changes of Alzheimer’s ironically begin when the brain is at its peak… closer to age 20!
Although there are no magic solutions, tantalizing new evidence suggests it may be possible to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease through a combination of healthful habits.
Scientists now suggest you can stimulate your mind, improve your mood, sharpen your memory, and reduce your Alzheimer’s risks. Learn their discoveries and join the race towards brain vitality now.
Wilson RS, Barnes LL, Aggarwal NT, Boyle PA, Hebert LE, Mendes de Leon CF, Evans DA. Cognitive activity and the cognitive morbidity of Alzheimer disease. Neurology, 2010; 75 (11): 990 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181f25b5e
Strategies to Prevent and Delay Alzheimer's Disease:
- Get pleanty of exercise
- Eat a brain-healthy diet
- Keep your mind active
- Sleep regularly and restfully
- Learn to relax
- Protect your brain
You can download the complete plan from HELPGUIDE.org but we will include the first strategy below for your convenience. We will run the rest by installment in the following days, if we remember. :)
Prevention and delay strategy #1: Get moving!
According to a recent Mayo Clinic review, no single lifestyle choice has as much impact on aging and Alzheimer’s disease as exercise. In a 2009 review of literature from the International Journal of Clinical Practice, scientists documented that over time, physical activity effectively reduces the probability of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Additional research shows those with existing cognitive problems and dementia receive a protective benefit from regular exercise.
These tips will maximize your exercise plan:
- Exercise at a moderate pace-for at least 30 minutes five times per week. Just five workouts every seven days can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 35%. When serious brain damage has already occurred, brisk walking and other cardiovascular exercise can slow further injury.
- Build muscle to pump up your brain-moderate levels of weight and resistance training not only increase muscle mass, they maintain cognitive health. Combining aerobics and strength work is better than either activity alone. Add 2-3 strength sessions to your weekly routine, and your risk of Alzheimer’s is cut in half if you are over 65.
- Stretch for success-agility not only makes you light on your feet, it improves balance and reduces head injuries. Remember the Tin Man… and reach, twist, and flex often to keep your fr ame limber and your brain supported.
- Think movement-those who are physically active throughout life have improved cognitive forecasts. Gardening, cleaning house, and taking the stairs build brain-healthy movement throughout the day. Look for opportunities to walk, bend, stretch, and lift your way to vitality.
Act now to prevent and delay Alzheimer’s disease
It is never too early or too late to protect yourself and your family against Alzheimer’s. Start a multi-step strategy now, and begin actively preventing or slowing this disease.
The race to cure Alzheimer’s is expected to continue for some time. Investing in your diet, exercise, mental stimulation, and rest will help you feel better now and keep your brain working stronger…longer.