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Alzheimer’s Disease, Exercise and Health Insurance

 
23/09/2014 | By Peter Walker

It has been widely reported by the Daily Mail (1) and the BBC (2) that regular exercise can keep the brain sharp, active, and robust, possibly slowing down or even preventing the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.  Alzheimer’s disease is most common in men and women with prior family history of the disease (3); however, no-one is risk-free.  Those suffering from the disease develop certain characteristics such as memory loss, poor cognitive functioning and physical and mental weakness.   

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London (4) have concluded that physical inactivity such as the failure to do either 20 minutes of vigorous activity on 3 or more days, or 30 minutes of moderate activity on 5 or more days, is one of many factors contributing to early development of Alzheimer’s disease.  The good news is that regular exercise, of moderate to high intensity, is reported to help those most vulnerable to the disease, stay healthy.  Many find that when you are physically and mentally active, you tend to feel and look better.  As one researcher put it, “ what is good for your heart is good for your head…..”  With over 20% of UKs population categorised as physically inactive; exercise coupled with other important lifestyle changes may, according to reports, help reduce the prospect of Alzheimer’s disease in at least, you guessed it, 20% of the population.  Now that’s a lot of people!  Whether we like it or not, Alzheimer’s disease is prevalent, but not inevitable. 

Alzheimer’s is known as a chronic condition or long term condition, which are not commonly covered by health insurance. Alzheimer’s society  has found that early diagnosis is one of the most beneficial factors in reducing the early impact of the disease (5), but that in some areas of the country, patients had to wait for 9 months between a referral and an appointment (6)Those covered by health insurance, may well be covered for the early investigations and specialists consultation to secure an early diagnosis, which can otherwise prove difficult as currently only 46% of people with dementia in the UK currently have a diagnosis and thus access to treatment (6) 

So the research and reports  suggest exercise may help reduce our risks of Alzheimer’s, there are many reasons why each and every one of us could benefit from getting out of breath two or three times as week, as per the advice below taken from the NHS Choices guidance (7)  

Why exercise? 

  • Exercise can encourages mobility and thus independence; 
  • It can help ensure a good night’s sleep;  
  • It can reduce depression, anxiety and stress; 
  • Remember to stretch afterwards to ward off muscle stiffness and pain (8) 

What kind of exercise? 

  • Aerobic or cardiovascular exercises such as walking, jogging and swimming can be helpful.  Also included in this list are simple household activities such as gardening, cleaning or even walking the dog! 
  • Building muscle can help improve your mental health too (9) .  So combining cardiovascular exercises with 2-3 strength-training sessions every week can be life changing.  Strength training exercises include light dumbbells, kettle bells and resistance bands.  Keep it engaging and fresh by joining a class or local group.  
  • Older people often enjoy group classes that are calming and relaxing because they promote mental peace and stability.  Activities such as yoga, meditation and tai chi are ideal for those who want to explore balance and coordination exercises. Have you ever tried water aerobics?  
  • Finally, choose exercises that are enjoyable and doable.  Finding a workout buddy and someone to keep you motivated throughout not only helps make exercise less boring  yet also lets you share your results with them as you go 

Before you start any new exercise plan, it is important that you discuss this with your GP to ensure it is safe and appropriate to do so.   

Read more on health insurance here.

Note: This article is provided for informational purposes and does not constitute advice, please refer to your GP.   


Resources:
1 DAILY MAIL, 2014-last update, Cut Alzheimer's risk by walking: It only takes 20 minutes, 3 times a week . Available: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2690880/Cut-Alzheimer-s-risk-walking-It-takes-20-minutes-3-times-week-say-Cambridge-scientists.html
2 BBC, 2014-last update, One in three Alzheimer's cases preventable, says research. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-28262878
3 NHS CHOICES, 2014-last update, Exercise may help prevent Alzheimer's disease. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2014/07July/Pages/Exercise-may-help-prevent-Alzheimers-disease.aspx
4 NORTON, S., MATTHEWS, F.E., BARNES, D.E., YAFFE, K. and BRAYNE, C., 2014. Potential for primary prevention of Alzheimer's disease: an analysis of population-based data. The Lancet Neurology, 13(8), pp. 788-794
5 SPERLING, R.A., AISEN, P.S., BECKETT, L.A., BENNETT, D.A., CRAFT, S., FAGAN, A.M., IWATSUBO, T., JACK JR, C.R., KAYE, J. and MONTINE, T.J., 2011. Toward defining the preclinical stages of Alzheimer’s disease: Recommendations from the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer's Association workgroups on diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's & Dementia, 7(3), pp. 280-292
6 ALZHEIMER'S SOCIETY, 2013-last update, Diagnosis and assessment. Available: http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=404
7 NHS CHOICES, 2013-last update, Benefits of exercise. Available: http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/fitness/pages/whybeactive.aspx
8 SHRIER, I. and GOSSAL, K., 2000. Myths and truths of stretching. Phys Sportsmed, 28(8), pp. 35-46
9 MORGAN, W.P. and GOLDSTON, S.E., 2013. Exercise and mental health. Taylor & Francis.