My grandmother is in her early 90’s and has dementia. She can remember vacations, events, and names from years ago, just not always what we discussed yesterday. What has likely helped to reduce the signs and symptoms of her dementia? Her habit of exercise and physical activity over the decades. In an ongoing research project at the UC San Francisco Memory and Aging Center, lifestyle habits are being analyzed regarding their effects on frontotemporal dementia (FTD). FTD is the most common dementia for people under 65, and accounts for 5-15% of all cases the study says.
At the ripe young age of 44, I’m in this category of people who can alter their chances of developing dementia through exercise, diet, and staying mentally engaged in life. While this sounds simple, why do so many middle agers ignore what their poor lifestyle choices do for their health? No drugs are currently available to treat and prevent FTD. Per the study, ‘”This is devastating disease without good medical treatments, but our results suggest that even people with a genetic predisposition for FTD can still take actions to increase their chances of living a long and productive life. Their fate may not be set in stone,” said Kaitlin Casaletto, PhD, assistant professor of neurology at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center and corresponding author of the new study, published January 8, 2020 in Alzheimer’s and Dementia.’
As a person in my 40’s, this is good and startling news. Who knew how much toll your lifestyle can take this early on regarding mental health? The majority of people know the physical risks for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer with an unhealthy lifestyle, and now have even more to be concerned about. The question now for those at risk generally is “what can I do to change?” My 10 plus years’ experience as a personal trainer tells you to eat less and smarter, and exercise more! A friend of mine started back working out recently after a 15-year layoff. His body tells him that wasn’t a good idea with the intense soreness he feels! To his credit, he’s starting back.
Can you reverse the damage done by decades of unhealthy eating and sedentary living, for the most part yes within reason. Weight loss at any age reduces risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. Neuroplasticity allows you to reform neural pathways related to movement patterns. The downfall people have are in the expectations. Changes after 10 years or more of hard living don’t happen in two weeks. When you start, know it is a process, and the outcomes are always positive in moderation. No secret pill, potion, or juice exists to reverse the damages at any point during your change. Consistent effort and dedication win the day.
Being good to yourself does pay large dividends according to every study every written. Healthy lifestyle, not specifically abstinence in any area of life, leads to you being generally happier and living longer than people who do the opposite. The body is amazing and runs efficiently when treated kindly overall. Even when you have a few bumps and scrapes along the way, it heals itself to be stronger for the next off-road adventure.
For additional help on reducing symptoms for FTD, sign up for Movement Academy’s Active Aging Program. Use code BRAIN at checkout for 50% off your first month.