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UAB collaboration sheds light on exercise and Alzheimer's


More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. The population of older adults in the Birmingham area is expected to rise nearly fifty thousand people by the end of this decade. Nutrition, exercise, and socialization tend to decrease as adults turn into elders.

A new study shows individuals who incorporate both aerobic and strength exercises in their regular routines have a stronger mental process. The study included heathy individuals ranging from ages 85 to 99. The goal was to test their cognitive functions after aerobic and strength exercises. People who didn’t engage in any physical exercise scored lower on cognitive tests.

The purpose of this study is to promote healthier aging. By 2060, the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. is projected to reach almost fourteen million.

Daniel Pahos is the Owner of the Home Instead Birmingham office. He says diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia are becoming more prevalent than they were generations ago.

“The issue that you have with Alzheimer's and dementia, which was certainly compounded with the pandemic, as far as isolation. That disease process does require some help, whether it be a family member, friends, or professionals to help with ongoing day to day tasks. And when you're an individual has Alzheimer's or dementia, you can't perform tasks on your own without remembering if you took your medications or where you are or possibly wandering outside the home. So having more prevalence of Alzheimer's and dementia in senior adults is causing some more stress for those who are aging in place,” said Pahos.

There are multiple warning signs of potential dementia or Alzheimer's disease to look out for among loved ones.

“There are some signs for example, if you notice that your loved one has a memory loss that disrupts daily life. Those are warning signs, difficulty completing familiar tasks. Where once it was easy now it's becoming more difficult. Those are red flags, challenges understanding visual images, misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace the steps, decreased poor judgment, changes in mood and behavior and personality that weren't there before”, said Pahos.

Once these signs are identified it’s best to look at resources to help such as the Alzheimer's Association of Central Alabama.

Pahos says there are a few tips to reduce some of the risks of Alzheimer's or dementia as a family member. Nutrition, exercise, and socialization play an essential role.

“Having senior adults eat the right calories, meaning eating nutritious foods versus the junk foods. The right calories are important, but also ensuring that you sit down with that loved one and socialize. A lot of the benefits that research has shown is not only just the nutrition and eating, but socialization while you're eating. So sitting down having a meal, like we did back in the day, with family, grandkids, making an evening of the laughter, the joy, those are things that will impact that loved ones evening and it'll impact their socialization and therefore impact their mental health and their physical health on a positive way,” said Pahos.

Jolencia Jones is a graduate assistant at Alabama Public Radio. She joined APR in 2022. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a bachelor's degree in public relations. Over the past year, Jolencia has written a range of stories covering events throughout the state. When she's not working at APR, she's writing for 1956 Magazine and The Crimson White.

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