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Learning more about the mysteries of dementia

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Dementia can be a difficult condition to live with, whether as a patient or as a friend or family member of an affected individual.

Trying to understand the full extent of such a complex condition can be tricky, especially since there is still “a lot to learn” for even those studying the causes and development of the disease.

That’s according to a report on one of the biggest studies ever carried out on dementia treatment. Recently published in the American medical journal ‘The Annals of Internal Medicine’, the study conducted by the University of Minnesota concludes that there’s no “magic bullet” to tackling the disease.

The report – titled ‘Physical Activity Interventions in Preventing Cognitive Decline and Alzheimer-Type Dementia’ – looks at more than 100 significant trials testing the effects of “wellness regimes” like exercise and brain training. The study aims to determine whether or not the onset of dementia can be delayed or if its progress can be halted in any way.

What we know about dementia

For many of us, dementia is often associated with forgetfulness in older people. The reality, however, is a little more complex, with Alzheimer’s Research UK pointing out that the condition “is more than just memory loss,” affecting a wide variety of people in many different ways.

While memory loss is a key signifier that someone may be dealing with dementia, other symptoms can also include behavioural changes, confusion, disorientation, and difficulties in communicating, along with other cognitive issues. What’s more, these aspects may not appear suddenly but instead develop gradually over time and become progressively worse.

Alzheimer’s Research also states that everyone’s experience of dementia is different and “not always obvious to begin with as symptoms can be subtle, overlapping with other illnesses such as depression.” Further to this, the organisation expects to the number of global dementia cases to rise dramatically over the coming decades, as population and life expectancy figures also increase.

We’re often familiar with seeing the effects of dementia in people, but we’re still in the dark when it comes to determining the causes of it or finding potential treatments. There are currently no methods that definitively stop or slow down Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. However, this recent study offers hope for looking further into ways that could help combat the disease.

Still more to learn

The report from the University of Minnesota reviews the effects of general “wellness regimes” in 116 previous medical trials, in order to see whether any of them have a significant effect on prolonging the development of dementia. These include physical exercise, brain training activities, eating healthily and taking vitamin supplements.

While researchers found that brain training had a slight benefit, the overall result suggested these courses of action were not strong enough to have any real effect on halting dementia. These problems were acknowledged by the report’s co-author Dr Mary Butler, who noted that the results were “difficult to interpret”.

Dr Howard Fink – the study’s other author – stated, “Alzheimer’s develops over many years,” and that it’s possible that these intervention studies “may not have been started early enough or continued long enough.” Both authors also agreed that the difficulty in analysing the effects comes from how the studies are conducted and how results are measured.

This prompted Dr Fink to conclude: “It’s a humbling result. It tells us that we still have a lot to learn.” In ideal circumstances, they would propose that the medical trials begin earlier and take place over a much longer period of time.

Professional dementia care

It may be several years before we see a breakthrough in fully understanding the causes of dementia and potential treatments. While researchers around the globe continue those vital studies, we at SureCare are committed to providing high quality care for affected individuals today.

There may still be more to learn about the origins of dementia and if its progress can ever be slowed down, but our specially trained care workers understand the difficulties faced by those living with the condition, as well as their loved ones. That’s why we ensure that our care services are delivered in a safe, stimulating and social environment.

To make sure that your loved one receives the right level of compassionate care and attention, we can provide a fully tailored service that meets your specific requirements.

Simply get in touch with your local SureCare provider, or send an email to enquiries@surecare.co.uk and we’ll point you in the right direction.