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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Changes in Walking and Balance Can be a Sign of Alzheimer's and Dementia


Prior to my mother's diagnosis of dementia she started scraping her feet on the ground, and started falling down. On one fall she broke her finger.

When my mother would fall, she could not get back up on her own. I now find myself wondering--how did she get up before I came to take care of her? I'll never know the answer to this question.

I am convinced that my decision to take her into a gym, and put her on a treadmill made a remarkable difference. My mother has not fallen a single time in the last 4 years. Not once.

I suppose when I talk about exercise and the very positive effect it has on my mother's over all well being--I make it sound like magic. It does seem magical to me the more I think about it.

I wish more people would try getting their older parents to walk on a treadmill five days a week. The benefits are remarkable.
"Walking difficulties and falls are major symptoms of people with white matter changes and a significant cause of illness and death in the elderly," said study author Dr. Hansjoerg Baezner, of the University of Heidelberg in Mannheim, Germany. "Exercise may have the potential to reduce the risk of these problems since exercise is associated with improved walking and balance."
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Walking Changes May Be Alzheimer's Sign 

Changes in the brain may make it harder for older people to keep their balance and move around well. A three-year study at the University of Florence took brain scans of 639 people and measured them in walking tests.

Those with severe changes to the white matter of their brains were twice as likely to score poorly on the physical tests. They were twice as likely as those with mild changes to have a history of falls.

"Walking difficulties and falls are major symptoms of people with white matter changes and a significant cause of illness and death in the elderly," said study author Dr. Hansjoerg Baezner, of the University of Heidelberg in Mannheim, Germany. "Exercise may have the potential to reduce the risk of these problems since exercise is associated with improved walking and balance."

He noted that limited mobility can hurt the chances of living independently and lead to more time in hospitals and nursing homes.

He also said that early detection of balance problems may lead to earlier detection of Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. Source journal Neurology

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Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for advice and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 775 articles with more than 18,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.