Dementia is a commonly occurring disease in the older population. It is usually thought to be the consequence of the normal aging process. However, some evidence published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that it is related to sedentary lifestyle as well. Is it possible that sitting for too long may increase the risk of dementia? Keep reading to know more.
What is Dementia?
Dementia refers to a decline in the mental activity which gets severe enough to disturb the quality of life. It is not a disease itself but refers to a group of symptoms in which the patients find it difficult to recall memories.
About 47.5 million people in the world are living with dementia right now. Resources suggest this number to rise up to 75.6 million by the year 2030.
The most common form of dementia in older adults in Alzheimer’s disease. This particular disease, in fact, accounts for almost 60 to 80 percent of the total dementia cases. In the United States alone, Alzheimer’s disease has currently affected 5.4 million people.
What are the Symptoms of Dementia?
The symptoms of dementia generally vary from person to person. The most common indications of dementia in a person involve problems with the following functions:
- Visual perception
- Ability to pay attention
- Judgment and decision making
People suffering from dementia suffer from a lot of inconveniences regarding the short-term memory. It becomes very difficult for them to keep a track of their bills, meals, and even the location of their personal items such as wallet, keys, and other stuff.
Most of the dementias are progressive in nature. This means that the symptoms start appearing slowly and keeps getting worse with time. If you or anyone of your relatives are suffering from a difficulty in thinking or comprehending, do not ignore it.
In such circumstances, it is always advisable to go check with a doctor. Professional evaluation is very helpful in detecting a treatable disease. Even if the person is diagnosed with dementia, early detection can provide benefit. It can also provide an opportunity for participating in clinical trials as volunteers.
What are the Causes of Dementia?
Dementia basically occurs due to any damage that directly affects the brain cells. This damage disturbs the communication of brain cells hence, causing a disruption in the thinking and behavior of a person.
There are different types of dementia, each with damage to a different area of the brain. For instance, in Alzheimer’s disease, certain proteins are raised both in and outside the brain. This makes it extremely difficult for the brain to regulate its activities.
Hippocampus is a neuronal area which takes part in development and consolidation of memory. It is also the most commonly involved area in dementia. This is why the loss of memory is the earliest manifestation of Alzheimer’s.
Certain genetic conditions have also been attributed to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. For example, the presence of apolipoprotein (APOE) e4 gene is a big risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists have argued that the presence of a single copy of this gene increases the risk of developing by three folds. People with two copies of the same gene are 8 to 12 times more prone to developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease in particular.
While genetics has been termed as the major cause of dementia for a long time, a new proposition has been making its way for some time. It is believed that sedentary behaviors play an important role in the development and the progression of dementia.
Could it actually be possible that sitting for too long may increase the risk of dementia?
A recent study carried out by a few scientists have concluded that inactivity can actually stop the protective effects of the genes that are essentially protecting your body. This means that your inactive periods or laziness of sitting too long may increase the risk of dementia by several folds.
What is the Relationship between Physical Activity and Dementia?
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, older adults are required to perform the aerobic activity of moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes.
Alternatively, senior citizens can also perform an intense activity for 75 minutes to keep their systems going. This implies that activity is, in fact, important for all the systems of the body and sitting for too long may increase the risk of dementia after all.
A research published in the in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity in the year 2015 stated that people older than 60 years of age spend 9.4 hours every day doing nothing. This means that for about 65 to 80 percent of the day, they just sit idle.
These two facts led the scientists to investigate if sitting for too long may increase the risk of dementia or not.
For the study to proceed, the scientists aimed at exploring the relationship between the risk of dementia and the physical activity in older people, both with and without having APOE e4 gene in their bodies.
For their study, Heisz and colleagues set out to investigate the association between physical activity and dementia risk among older adults with and without the APOE e4 gene.
1646 older people were included in the study and none of the participants had developed dementia at the beginning. The researchers continue to observe these participants over the time span of 5 years.
The results indicated that people without APOE e4 gene and exercise routine were at an increased risk of developing dementia as compared to those who carried this gene but exercised.
For people with APOE e4 gene, no significant difference in the risk of dementia could be measured among the group that exercised and the one that did not.
As per the researchers, these findings suggest that not exercising and sitting for too long may increase the risk of dementia in people that carry APOE e4 gene.
It has also been declared that that being inactive can completely stop the protective effects of the genes in a human body.
Can Increasing Exercise Protect against Dementia?
While establishing that sitting for too long may increase the risk of dementia, the study also suggests that increasing the amount of physical activity can protect the APOE e4 gene carriers against dementia.
“Age is still a critical marker for dementia, but the research has established a stronger link between the genetics and different lifestyle habits,” said the scientists.
At the same time, the scientists have proposed that more research is required for determining the exact type of exercise that may benefit the brain in this regard.
“A physically active life can definitely boost the brain health and increase its efficacy. However, if you are to ask about the type of exercise can reduce the risk of dementia in a patient, there is no certain answer by far,” say the scientists.