A New Alzheimer’s Clue: Limited Life Space

A New Alzheimer’s Clue: Limited Life Space
We all know that Alzheimer’s disease plays havoc with time. The disease releases the past while it jumbles chronology. As soon as a person starts forgetting common names, or how to perform activities of daily living, there is a suspicion of Alzheimer’s which requires further diagnosis by a neurologist or psychiatrist. However, new research from the Rush University Medical Center asserts that Alzheimer’s is linked to constriction of space. In other words, a limited life space might be a precursor to this disease.

Seniors whose living space is restricted to their immediate home environment like their home and patio are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as seniors who are stimulated by travel. "Life space may represent a new way to identify, out of a group of older persons displaying no memory or thinking problems, who is likely to go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease,” said Bryan James, PhD, an epidemiologist in the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center and the study's lead investigator.

The study goes on to qualify that the reasons for the link between constricted life space and Alzheimer’s are not yet known. However, the reader can speculate that years before Alzheimer’s manifests in memory loss and chronology distortion, a limited life space might be a sign of future disorientation. This is similar to seniors who lose their sense of smell – smell is linked to memory - which also might be a precursor to Alzheimer’s. Perhaps, losing the desire to venture out is a symptom. Or could it be that the lack of stimulation like the “use it or lose it” notion is to blame?

The take home message for Alzheimer’s is that stimulation, both physical and mental, play a significant role in preventing or postponing the disease. The kind of retirement which paints a picture of seniors sitting on rocking chairs on their front porch is detrimental to brain health. Instead seniors should be:

  • Putting on their sneakers and moving. Exercise builds new neurons in the brain and enhances synaptic connections.
  • Changing up routines to wake up the brain. For example, when driving one should take different routes. The order of activities of daily living can be reshuffled. The same exercise routine should be periodically varied regarding time, intensity and sequence.
  • Learning new things or engaging in creative hobbies. This will transfer laterally to other activities of daily living to make one more alive and alert.
  • Getting out and mingling, engaging in conversations that matter. Sociability will forge important connections which combat isolation, loneliness as they stimulate the brain.

For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show

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