Dr. James R. Burke, director of the Memory Disorders Clinic at Duke UniversityMedical Center, said isolation could offer a clue to possible dementia problems before they become obvious. “This will be particularly important when disease-modifying therapies are available, so that evaluations can be started and interventions considered before there are significant cognitive problems,” Burke said.
“(Life space) is actually a measure that has come into vogue with gerontologists lately,” James said. “Mostly it’s been a measurement of mobility, figuring out whether people are getting around their environment, how much they’re seeing that’s different from their couch or bedroom or living room.”
This study was so interesting to me because my adult children have nicknamed me “the hermit.” My children nag me constantly because I’d rather be home–than any place else. I have one grandson who takes after me and also prefers to stay home with Nana than gallivant around town with his parents.
Now this study comes along and I have the family nagging me anew. It’s bad enough that I probably inherited the Alzheimer’s gene from my Mom but now I learn that being a hermit isn’t exactly good for me either.
During this study at the Memory Disorder Clinic at Duke University researchers followed 1,294 seniors from two separate studies of older adults whose health was being tracked over time. At the beginning of this study, none of the elders showed signs of dementia. Over an average of 4.4 years, 180 developed Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers found that people who reported that they never left their home environment during a given week were about twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease in the five years of follow-up as those who traveled out of town. The research, James said, offers “a new way to see who’s going to be more likely to develop dementia in the future.”
The study also found that those who did not go beyond their driveway or front yard were also more likely to develop mild cognitive disorder, which can be an early manifestation of Alzheimer’s.
As the thinking goes, your “life space” is the area you travel. A healthy adult should travel often and far from his “home-base.” Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally also. Enjoy your travels and take part in activities that may feel foreign at first. Read a new book, Learn a new language, Study a new subject that you weren’t interested in before.
In other words, a person who has an abundance of friends and family in many cities, who determines to travel and visit them often, staying informed about all their lives, including work and families-- will be much healthier than the person who sits home day in and day out with little more activity than watching the ten o’clock news broadcast.
I do recall, when my Mom’s husband passed away about 8 years before her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, her life changed decidedly. Before then, they were on constant –”Go!” With children on both coast lines, traveling was a constant in their lives. When Mom’s husband passed away, Mom’s travelling stopped abruptly and her world changed as she knew it. As I think about it now, how sad she must have felt to give up the fun and happy life she knew with her husband.
As muscles stay healthy with vigorous exercise or a good walking program, so too, our brain needs to be exercised daily. Perhaps, the old saying: “If you don’t use it–you lose it” may give us pause in this case.
I think I’ll take that hermit grandson of mine and get out of the house this weekend; a nice craft fair might be nice. Exercise for the body and the mind!
What Will you do to Expand your Life Space this week?
I’d love to hear your ideas on this topic! Comment and Share…
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