Each month Shapers likes to shine some light on a condition that affects people with the aim of raising awareness and understanding. This time it is Alzheimer’s as World Alzheimer’s Month is an annual international event, always held in September. Run by the Alzheimer’s Disease International, (ADI). The event has been running since 2012, and September 21st is World Alzheimer’s Day.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, around 60% of diagnoses in the UK, and is the most common form of young onset dementia, accounting for around a third of younger people with dementia.
The exact cause is unknown, but we do know that ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ form in the brain due to two proteins called amyloid (plaques form when it malfunctions) and tau (tangles, aka clumps, together affecting the cells abilities). Research suggests that changes in the brain can occur up to ten years before a person starts to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may additionally have a reduction of the chemical, acetylcholine, in the brain. This functions as a chemical messenger to take information to and from brain cells, so a reduction in this chemical leads to information not being transmitted effectively.
Medication is available which may help slow progression and helps ‘manage’ the dementia, but it does not prevent or cure Alzheimer’s disease.
What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s?
The symptoms are usually mild at the beginning and gradually worsen over time. These may include:
- difficulty remembering recent events while having a good memory for past events
- poor concentration
- difficulty recognising people or objects
- poor organisation skills
- slow, confused or repetitive speech
- withdrawal from family and friends
- problems with decision making, problem solving, planning and sequencing tasks
If you have any concerns relating to the above symptoms, then please speak to your doctor.
Alzheimer’s and exercise – can it help?
There are a growing amount of studies that have found links between brain function and exercise. However, I think Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, sums it up well in regard to diagnosed dementia:
“Keeping physically active has been linked to a range of health benefits including better cognitive health and a lower risk of dementia, but we don’t understand the biological mechanisms that explain how physical activity could limit a decline in memory and thinking.”
Fingers crossed their research can help the 850,000+ people with dementia in the UK (Alzheimer’s Society, 2019).
We hope this information has helped to raise understanding of the condition and highlight another way that staying active can help our heath. If you have any questions, then please do not hesitate to speak to an Instructor. A huge thank you to Dementia UK and Alzhiemers.org.uk, who provide a great deal of information on which this Spotlight is based.