Alzheimer’s Australia describes Dementia as a collection of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. It is not a single disease but multiple diseases that share a common effect on an individual's thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday tasks. Dementia is considered such a serious issue, as it affects brain function enough to interfere with the person’s normal social or working life, often requiring external care to help complete tasks they normally could have completed alone.
Although Dementia is most common after the age of 65, it does present in people as early as 40 and 50, and can occasionally occur in people even younger. Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, damages the brain resulting in impaired memory, thinking and behaviour.
Most cases of Dementia are not inherited; Familial Alzheimer’s disease for example, is a very rare genetic condition with an onset age of less than 65. The biggest risk factor for having Alzheimer’s disease is increasing age, with 1 in 4 people over 85 having dementia. Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease can affect anyone of any age, but usually occurs after the age of 65 and is the most common form of Alzheimer's disease. For such a life changing disease, the question is, what can you do to prevent it?
In 2012 the results of a major study led by neurologist Dr. Joe Verghese at Albert Einstein College of Medicine were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The research followed elderly subjects over an extended 21-year period to determine which activities most improved their sharpness of mind, and thus staved off the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's disease, and revealed that regularly engaging in social dancing lowered the seniors' risk of dementia by a confounding 76%. You can read a review of the study written by Professor Richard Powers of Stanford University Dance Vision.
Alzheimer’s Australia also recommends activities such as dance for dementia prevention: “Participating in social activities and interacting with others, exercises brain cells and strengthens the connections between them. Social activities that involve mental activity and physical activity provide even greater benefit for brain health and reducing the risk of developing dementia.”
Participation in mentally engaging activities such as dance improves the neuroplasticity of the brain. According to MedicineNet.com, Neuroplasticity is “The brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.” What does that mean? Basically, our brain constantly rewires its neural pathways as needed, if it doesn’t need to, it won’t. So by participating in mentally engaging activities, you improve these neural qualities, and the likeliness of dementia is severely reduced.
The best way to improve your mental acuity is to involve yourself in activities that require split-second, rapid-fire decision-making as opposed to rote memory (retracing the same well-worn paths), so you want to start by learning something new. Dancing is particularly effective according to Professor Powers, as it “integrates several brain functions at once — kinaesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional — further increasing your neural connectivity.”
It’s never too late to put on your dancing shoes, so get to it and start with a FREE Class On Us!