One of the scarier things we must contend with as we age is the specter of memory loss and how it affects us and our loved ones. Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and other memory impairments are difficult to come to terms with, but there are things we can do to lessen their impact on our daily lives.
Physical fitness plays an important role in staving off a variety of physical ailments including memory loss. Studies have shown that people with varying degrees of memory loss who maintain higher levels of fitness are able to prevent the shrinking of the brain that occurs as we age, along with progressive memory loss. People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s who have low levels of fitness are likely to experience four times the amount of brain shrinkage than older adults who have higher fitness levels. It is important to maintain as high a level of fitness as possible in the face of memory loss in order to slow its progress. As brain mass decreases, so does cognitive performance, but the fitter a person is, the longer it will take for the disease to progress.
It is important for Alzheimer’s patients and their families to seek support from their communities when dealing with memory loss. Very often, patients and their families feel isolated and are unaware of services available to them. There are memory and aging clinics in many communities that are equipped to assess cognitive function and prescribe a plan of action to help slow the progression of memory loss. Qualified physicians and counselors can work with the individual and family members to improve quality of life and learn skills to cope with the progressive nature of memory loss. Depending on the patient’s prognosis, there is much that can be done to prolong an active lifestyle through geriatric assessment.
If going to a health club is not possible for someone in the early stages of memory loss, working with a personal trainer can be the answer to raising the fitness level of the patient. Personal trainers conduct workout sessions in the homes of their clients as well as other convenient locations. The one-on-one attention is beneficial, especially to someone contending with memory loss.
It is always best to consult a physician about any changes in cognitive behavior, as well as before embarking on an exercise routine. With the right guidance, individuals with memory loss can maintain active, fulfilling lives.
Dr. David Tal is a specialist in geriatric medicine and runs the Age Matters Clinic in Toronto.
Avaneil John is a personal fitness trainer in Toronto.