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Alzheimer Awareness Month

Blog Written by Lorel Studer, Newport Fitness Member


“My daughter’s name is Lorel! Oh, you’d love her.” That’s what my mom said to me, in her sweet, enthusiastic way, as we sat outside and ate lunch together. “I’m sure she’s just great. Tell me about her,” I said, rolling my eyes. “I hate this damn disease,” I thought.


My mom walked every day, rain or shine, back in the 1980s when her doctor told her she had high cholesterol and high blood pressure. She was in her 50’s. I turned 50 earlier this year. So far so good, no high blood pressure or cholesterol for me but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about suffering from that debilitating disease like she did.

 

We lost mom in February to Alzheimer’s. She was 87. It was a very long goodbye made up of lots of smaller goodbyes as her cognitive baseline continued to deteriorate. Goodbye to the lady who remembered my dad. Goodbye to the woman who knew she was my mom or my kid’s Nana. Goodbye to the loquacious English teacher whose vocabulary spanned over a million adjectives. Hi, nice lady who regretted never getting married and having kids. Hello, to the toddler-like child who called people and things by the wrong name. Howdy, to the baby who needed to be fed.

 

How can I prevent this from happening to me or my husband? November is National Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) Awareness Month. Be aware so you can avoid this for yourself. Be aware so you can help someone you love suffering from Alzheimer’s or any other kind of dementia. Frankly, it’s a pretty hot topic these days with lots of promising things on the horizon. Let’s dig in.

 

The CDC reports, “in 2023, an estimated 6.7 million Americans aged 65 years or older had AD. The number is projected to nearly triple to 14 million by 2060.” The little bit of comfort that my BP and cholesterol are in good shape has now flown out the window. This is scary and also why it’s become such a hot topic in healthcare.

 

There is a little good news, maybe even encouraging. There have been impressive

advancements in the diagnosis of AD.  The National Institute for Health ( NIH) states

that neurological imaging using MRI, PET scans and nuclear medicine can show the

destructive plaques and biomarkers before any symptoms start. This can lead to earlier intervention and better symptom management. But they also warn that there is still a long way to go for a cure.

 

In July 2023, the Alzheimer's International Conference announced some exciting results from recent clinical trials with some promising testing, pharmacological treatments and non-pharmacological treatments. Other studies show an association with hearing loss and constipation, and the importance of avoiding opioids with patients.

 

What can I do right now? Well, one answer is to exercise. In an article in Current Sports Medicine Reports, Dr. Shane Cass, conducted a meta analysis of 27 research articles about how exercise affects Alzheimer’s and dementia. Essentially, exercise can prevent and even help to treat Alzheimer’s. More high-quality research is needed, buthowever, all data trends towards the more exercise the better. And guess what? The side effects of exercise are minimal compared to medication. And we all know that proper stretching and early intervention for exercise injuries will help keep you moving.

 

Is there anything else? Yes, yes there is. The CDC suggests the following to help lower

your risk:

·  Controlling high blood pressure

·  Maintaining a healthy weight

·  Quitting smoking

·  Being physically active

·  Eating healthy meals

·  Getting enough sleep

·  Avoiding alcohol or drinking in moderation

·  Managing diabetes

 

Five out of those eight interventions can also be achieved by incorporating exercise into your life. Like I said, my mom walked every day. But she didn’t have any variety in her exercise routine. It would be interesting to see studies that incorporate different kinds of exercise like weights, yoga, HIIT, etc. Anyway, for now I’ll be getting my exercise Em's Fitcamp-style.

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