Custom «Diet, Exercise, and Focus in Preventing Dementia» Sample Essay
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While health care system boasts of achieving longer life expectancy, maintaining a high quality of life for an elderly person is as important as longevity. A person can truly enjoy his or her age only if he or she stays physically and mentally healthy in elderly years. While regular checkups and doctor visits may be essential for maintaining good health, there are habits and lifestyle modifications that directly impact one’s health and wellbeing in the last decades of life. One of the health problems that many elderly adults encounter is dementia. Correct diet, regular physical exercising and remaining socially active were found to significantly influence the health condition of elderly population in a positive way. Dementia is a general term for a broad category of brain diseases associated with decline in memory and thinking in elderly that lead to one’s deterioration of cognitive and behavioral functions and inability to lead autonomous lifestyle. Reasons behind brain tissue deterioration and associated dementia as well as mechanisms of dementia prevention are not completely clear and continue to be explored. Despite the fact that dynamics that account for slowing aging demand further investigation, current research demonstrates that diet, exercising, and active social engagement positively affect not only physical wellbeing, but psychological health as well. Although biological mechanisms that improve one’s brain functioning in elderly years may not be completely clear, current research demonstrates that correct nutrition, regular physical activity, and active social life have a direct and positive impact on slowing deterioration of brain functioning and preventing dementia among the elderly.
Role of Nutrition in Preventing Dementia
Dementia is characterized by functional and cognitive changes that gradually destroy a person’s ability to lead a normal life. The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or Alzheimer’s dementia that accounts for up to 70 percent of all dementia instances (Swaminathan & Jicha, 2014). Patients affected by AD suffer from gradual loss of cognitive function and disturbances in behavior, leading to progressive, degenerative, and irreversible neurologic alterations. Therefore, dementia significantly impairs a person’s quality of life and represents a significant burden for family members who have to care for an ill person. Considering that one out of three seniors dies having Alzheimer’s or other kind of dementia, this condition presents a formidable problem for the elderly, especially those who are 65 years of age and older (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2013). Since Alzheimer’s cannot be cured, it seems that doing what one can to prevent the disease would be an optimal strategy.
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Recent research demonstrates that correct nutrition is instrumental in helping to prevent dementia and AD in particular. For example, Coppede, Bosco, Fuso, and Troen (2012) claim that dietary factors play a fundamental role in brain health throughout the lifespan. Leading a healthy lifestyle and keeping to healthy dietary habits during the early life and adulthood helps to counteract age-related diseases effectively. Coppede et al. (2012) explain that while overweight people stand a greater risk for dementia in later life, frequent consumption of omega-3 rich oils, fish, vegetables, and fruit leads to a decreased risk of AD. Similarly, intake of folate,
Vitamin B12, vitamin E, and antioxidants such as fatty fish and vitamin C have been found to reduce the risk of dementia.
Garrido, Terron, and Rodriguez (2013) confirm Coppede’s et al. (2012) conclusions and state that dietary interventions with antioxidant-enriched foods may play a role of natural instruments that affect the nature of aging and help to prevent or delay the onset of many age-associated degenerative diseases. For example, authors state that phytochemicals present in grains, vegetables, fruits, and other products strengthen body’s antioxidant defenses and minimize the formation of free radicals, slowing the aging process. Garrido et al. (2013) believe that health benefits of correct nutrition are so significant that healthy dieting may be compared with a cutting edge science in the area of prevention of age-related deterioration of body systems.
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Since the elderly are frequently dependent on their caregivers in terms of buying, planning, and cooking meals, it is important that family members are aware of dietary needs and the role certain foods play in preventing dementia. Edfors and Westergren (2012) write that older people are reliant on assistance from the side of family members and community when they make a transition from independence to dependence as a result of major health-related changes associated with aging. The authors state that when there are risk factors that compromise an older person’s ability to manage his or her diet, caregivers should assist the elderly with planning and cooking meals to maintain a correct diet.
Swaminathan and Jicha (2014) explain that although dynamics of nutritional interventions, with the help of which prevention and offset of AD may be achieved, demand further exploration, dietary modifications and some nutritional compounds or their combinations are essential for treating and preventing AD. Therefore, a nutritional approach towards AD prevention is a promising strategy. The authors indicate that environmental factors of AD development include dietary insufficiency or excess and emphasize epidemiologic data indicating that nutritional intake may affect the development of dementia. Although Coppede et al. (2012) and Swaminathan and Jicha (2014) acknowledge that effects of nutrition on AD prevention should be further investigated, authors are certain that nutritional interventions are effective in preventing brain deterioration, stimulating brain functioning, and delaying AD onset. Therefore, correct nutrition is instrumental for Alzheimer’s Dementia prevention.
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Physical Activity and AD Prevention
There is much evidence in support of the fact that regular physical activity is an important protective factor that prevents brain aging and associated dementia. Lautenschlager, Cox, and Cyarto (2012) analyzed randomized trials and other studies that examined the effects of regular physical exercising on dementia, cognitive functioning, and brain aging. They found that physical activity can have a positive impact on preventing cognitive impairment and brain aging. Although the evidence of positive effects of exercise is still limited, physical activity was found relevant in preventing impairment of cognitive functioning and dementia. Preliminary research and animal trials showed that age-related changes in brain tissue can be minimized and even reversed among individuals who exercise regularly (Lautenschlager et al., 2012). Finally, regular physical activity was found to influence biological mechanisms responsible for brain aging.
Bherer, Erikson, and Liu-Ambrose (2013) conducted a review of studies that explored the effects of physical activity and exercise on cognitive and brain functioning among elderly population. Summarized findings suggest that physical activity is a promising non-pharmacologic intervention that helps to prevent age-related neurodegenerative diseases and cognitive decline. Therefore, physical exercise was found to decrease the risk of chronic conditions and diseases such as metabolic syndrome and cognitive impairment (Bherer et al., 2013). Authors believe that there are three factors that prevent dementia and slow an older person’s cognitive decline. These factors include regular physical activity, cognitive leisure activity, and a socially integrated network. The review of Bherer’s et al. (2013) review made authors conclude that physical activity is a significant moderator of a cognitive decline related to age. Therefore, although more studies are required to investigate the relation between physical activity and dementia offset, there is much evidence demonstrating positive effect of exercise on brain functioning among the elderly.
Taylor (2014) considers physical activity so effective in terms of improving health status of the elderly that he called it a medicine for older adults. The author wrote that proficient studies provided strong evidence that increased level of physical activity and regular physical exercising facilitate health improvement among older adults. Moderate-to-vigorous strengthening and aerobic exercise five days a week was found to significantly improve their health status. Therefore, the analysis demonstrates that physical activity has a significant and positive impact on physical and mental health of older adults.
Social Life and Dementia Prevention
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2013) states that loneliness, depression, low level of life satisfaction, and poor mental health are common for older adults. In the UK care homes, where the elderly have limited social contact with outside world, two-thirds of residents are affected by dementia (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, 2013). National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2013) emphasized that mental wellbeing of older people is contingent on several factors. The first one is participating in meaningful activities. For example, more than half of those who care for people with AD feel that their patients’ mental functions further deteriorate because they do not have much to do during the day. The second one is maintaining and developing personal identities. Such aspects as involvement in decision making and making personal choices positively impact mental health as well. The third factor is recognition of early symptoms of deteriorating cognitive functioning. Finally, mental health is contingent on the access to healthcare services.
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Carr, Weir, Azar, and Azar (2013) described steps leading to successful aging. According to the authors, successful aging takes place when an older person stays disability-free and sufficiently healthy to lead an active lifestyle and maintain personal autonomy, remaining actively engaged in life, and retaining a high level of cognitive and physical functioning. Authors emphasize that active engagement in life is one of the keys to staying mentally healthy. Therefore, active participation in productive social pursuits accounts for stronger mental wellbeing. Perry, Hassevoort, Ruggiano, and Stompel (2015) argued that a possibility to make new psychological accomplishments, self-management of physical and mental health deviations, and applying wisdom are the key elements of maintaining satisfactory cognitive functioning. Perry et al. (2015) argued that when older adults remain autonomous, engage in creative problem solving and are able to apply previously gained skills and competence, they will more successfully focus on, manage, and execute mental tasks.
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Therefore, although the relation between dementia and social engagement requires further examination, available observations by practitioners and research studies indicate that active engagement in social life, sufficient personal autonomy, and involvement in decision making help to preserve mental health of older adults. Consequently, elderly people need an area where they can apply their wisdom and expertise to stimulate brain activity and cognitive functioning. Thus, when older people have an area on which they can focus their mental capabilities and competence, they will be more capable of maintaining mental wellbeing, reducing risk of brain functioning deterioration and subsequently dementia.
Dementia, a brain disease associated with a cognitive decline among the elderly, leads to degenerative, progressive, and irreversible neurologic alterations and destroys a person’s ability to live normally. Since one out of three seniors dies having Alzheimer’s or other type of dementia, this condition presents a formidable challenge for public health. Since dementia cannot be cured, prevention is an optimal strategy. There is an abundance of research demonstrating that nutritional interventions, physical activity, and active social engagement have a great potential for preventing dementia. Although specific mechanisms and aforementioned interventions that prevent deterioration of a brain functioning and dementia onset require further research, available data makes it clear that dietary modifications, exercise, and active social life are keys to healthy aging and mental wellbeing. Therefore, practitioners, caregivers, and scientists have sufficient information to act on the premises that correct nutrition, regular physical activity, and active social engagement help to slow down the deterioration of brain functioning and prevent dementia among the elderly population.
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