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Is Alzheimer’s Disease a growing problem?

Is Alzheimer’s Disease a growing problem these days or has it always been around but called a different name, or not as frequently diagnosed?

The term Alzheimer’s Disease was first used in 1910 after Dr. Alois Alzheimer discovered shrinkage and abnormal deposits in the brain upon doing an autopsy of a woman who had profound memory loss. In the late 1960’s assessment tools were developed  to measure mental and functional decline in the brains of older adults. Advances in technology allowed scientists to study brain cells in detail and observe during an autopsy that there were similar changes in the brain among those with memory loss.

In 1974 the National Institute on Aging established federal funding for Alzheimer’s research. The Alzheimer’s Association was founded in 1980 to advance research, support those affected by the disease and promote brain health. Efforts by the National Institute on Aging and Alzheimer’s Association have increased our awareness of the disease as a nation.

Back in the 60’s & 70’s scientific research and discoveries were not publicized in popular media. When an elderly person seemed confused, we called them senile. Remember the term “hardening of the arteries?” Families would try to keep it hush-hush and help their spouse or parent in the privacy of their own home. In the rare case a diagnosis was made, there were no medications or treatments available.

Fast forward to the current decade and you will notice people are much more forthcoming about illnesses, age-related or otherwise. The generation of Baby Boomers, who tend to be vocal about their wants and needs, and demand solutions to their problems, are now dealing with aging parents.

The rise in the number of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease cannot be simply attributed to better diagnostic tools and the willingness of people to speak openly about their challenges. While the medical community cannot definitively answer the question either, examining risk factors can give us a clue.

The first risk factor is age. The older you get, the greater the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. In 1900, 4% of the U.S. population was over the age of 65. In 2012, that percentage increased to 13.7%. As the population grows, so do the number of Alzheimer’s cases.

Family history of Alzheimer’s is another risk factor, and the risk increases if more than one family member has been diagnosed. There is a genetic component to the higher risk, but researchers are also looking into environmental factors family members share. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, risk genes increase the likelihood of getting the disease, but do not guarantee it will happen. Risk genes have been found to be a factor in 20% – 25% of the cases. Deterministic genes, which are found to directly cause the disease, are a factor in less than 5% of the cases.

Other risk factors include diet and exercise, low mental stimulation, and social isolation. It is no secret that Americans could improve their nutrition, increase physical activity, and limit watching TV and other passive brain activities.

It makes sense to propose that as the risk factors of old age, genetics and poor lifestyle choices are present in a greater population in America, so does the growing incidence of Alzheimer’s.

 

 

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Get Yourself Some Good Stress

Stress is commonly identified as the culprit behind poor health. It can weaken the immune system and make yourself vulnerable to a variety of diseases. Stress is not always bad. We need the right kind of stress to be healthy and live fulfilling lives, not to mention fight dementia. There is a word for this type of good stress. It is called eustress (eu is a  Greek root word for good.)

Stress can be fun. Why else would we want to ride a roller coaster or watch a thrilling movie? Excitement causes a rush of adrenaline which feels good.

The right amount of stress on the brain can help protect against cognitive decline. Stressing your brain to come up with words to fill out a crossword puzzle or keeping track of cards during a bridge game will provide stimulation to keep your brain healthy. The brain, even in old age, works to adapt and rewire itself when stimulated.

Exercise stresses the body in a good way. Muscles need stress to grow strong. Lifting weights stresses and tears muscle fibers. Resting the muscles after a workout promotes a healing process which strengthens muscles. Bones benefit from weight bearing and impact exercises. Stress on the bones promotes the deposit of proteins and increases bone density.

Aerobic exercise stresses the heart and lungs. The result is a stronger heart and increased energy.

Stretching stresses muscles to become longer and more flexible. Flexibility decreases the risk of injury by helping joints move through their full range of motion.

Challenging yourself to learn or do something new can be stressful. There is the fear of failure or the frustration of not getting it right. Successfully facing a challenge however, can bring a tremendous sense of satisfaction that is well worth the effort.

Making friends and developing relationships doesn’t come easy as you get older. It can stress your emotions to reach out to others, reveal personal strengths and frailties, and become vulnerable to rejection. The payoff is belonging to a community which supports you in good times and in bad.

Good stresses in life help to reduce harmful stress. Living a safe and sedentary life does not provide the stimulation and outlet to manage harmful stress. Experts who give advice on stress management emphasize making friends and developing a support base, learning ways to build satisfaction, exercising, playing games and finding ways to have fun.

Is it a coincidence that giving the brain this good stress, exercising, making friends and having strong community ties are ways to fight dementia? I think not.

 

 

 

 

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The Health Benefits of Exercise for Seniors

A Brand New Day – Redding writes a Senior Living column for the Record Searchlight which can also be seen online at Redding.com. We talk about a wide variety of subjects with common thread about topics relevant to Seniors and their families. To follow is a compilation of posts about the benefits of exercise. We hope you will be inspired to get moving

It’s never too late to start an exercise program

Do you need another reason to start to exercise? Perhaps the latest findings will be just the incentive you need to get off the couch.

The American College of Cardiology held its annual scientific meeting in New Orleans, of all places. After all, New Orleans cuisine is not especially known to be heart healthy. Findings from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study in Dallas were presented at the scientific meeting last week. The study showed that “consistent lifelong exercise preserves heart muscle in the elderly to levels that match or even exceed that of healthy young sedentary people.” (click here for the entire story)

Seniors are living longer and healthier lives

Today’s seniors are living longer than ever. Decades ago, many seniors lived into their 60s or 70s. Today they are entering their 80s, 90s and beyond. This is largely due to advances in medical care, however, practicing healthy lifestyle choices also contributes to greater longevity. (click here for the entire story)

Seniors find health and friendship at the gym

Everybody knows that exercise is good for the body. It lowers your risk for disease, helps you look and feel better and stay active longer.

Exercise isn’t easy, and seniors may have more reservations about the benefits of exercise than other age groups. How do seniors find a way to stay fit and stay motivated? (click here for entire story)

We are on Facebook

If you would like to become a Facebook fan and connect to others who share your interests, please check us out on our Facebook page at ABrandNewDayRedding. Every Friday we have a PhotoTeaser, (click for the entire story)

A Brand New Day is a 26 bed Memory Care assisted living facility in Redding, CA focusing on Alzheimer’s and dementia, respite and hospice care. Our license number is 455001567. We invite you to contact us with any questions when you are concerned about the safety and care of a loved one at 530.223.1538. We are happy to be your Senior Care resource.

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