ERWC, Period 5
10 March 2015
Do not forget to Dance! How Dancing can decrease the onset of Dementia
Approximately 35.6 million people worldwide suffer from dementia, by 2030 this number will double, and by 2050 will triple. Not only do people in America struggle with dementia, but it can be found everywhere and there are a numerous amount of cases that go unreported. With some cases of dementia being hereditary and with the affirmation that the risk of developing grows with age, it is no wonder people live in fear of this mysterious disease. As it is well known there is no cure for this devastating disease. A disease where one must endure day to day confusion and constant memory loss for an array of things such as a telephone numbers, or loved ones is undoubtingly a tragic way to live a life. With no antibiotics or home remedies to cure this disease, one can surely live in terror of one day acquiring dementia. Though there is no way to make the disease perish, there are strides one can do to prevent it. Mental health and physical activity go hand-in-hand, and in the case of dementia, one of the best physical activities one can do to prevent its onset is dancing.
Dementia is a rapidly growing disease and researchers are constantly trying to find new answers, as well as a lead to a cure. As fatality statistics rise, the desideratum to find cures or preventions for dementia rise. According to McKeeff, “ 5.4 million people in America have Alzheimer’s and 1 in 8 Americans will eventually develop the disease” (McKeeff 1). The startling number, one in eight means that people in America have a twelve point five percent chance of one day obtaining the disease. With a substantial chance of obtaining the disease it is a realistic fear for many elderly. Researchers continue to explore many potential solutions, searching for a valid cure. “Unfortunately there are currently no medications that effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease” (McKeeff 1). With no medications readily available or any successful cures, researchers are forced to explore alternative methods in treating and preventing dementia. Dementia is caused by the death of brain cells, these brain cells die when one has no cognitive stimulation going in the brain. “Stimulating one’s mind by dancing can ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, much as physical exercise can keep the body fit” (Powers 1). Dancing is a healthy activity that not only exercises one’s body physically, but also exercises one’s mind. Exercises such as running or lifting weights are great for the body, but become routine the mind and offer no brain stimulation. The exercise becomes another monotonous task such as brushing one’s teeth or locking the door. The New England Journal of Medicine found that reading reduces the risk of dementia by 35%, crossword puzzles by 47%, and lastly, dancing reduces the risk of dementia by 75%. “The only physical activity to offer protection against dementia was frequently dancing. That was the greatest reduction of any activity studies, cognitive or physical” (Powers 1). With a scarcity of activities, mental or physical, as effective at preventing dementia as dancing, it is common that one might consider taking up dancing. The findings were unforeseen, the best possible action one can take in order to combat dementia would be to dance. The positive effects of dancing cease to be endless.
There is so much more depth to dancing and positive effects that the average person is unaware of. Dancing is a physical and mental activity that works numerous areas of the brain as well as the body. “Dancing integrates several brain functions at once-kinesthetic, rational, musical, and emotional-further increasing your neural connectivity” (Powers 1). Brain cells begin to die when neurons stop connecting and receiving stimulation, so dancing can help keep those neurons connecting at a healthy rate. Since dancing is operating multiple brain functions at one time, it keeps the brain active and does not leave it stagnant. The more neurons being stimulated the more activity there will be inside the brain, with more activity comes a healthier brain that is less likely to lose vital functions. “Making as many split second decisions as possible is the key to maintaining cognitive abilities” (Powers 1). Split second decisions, is what keeps the brain active, due to this the brain can not simply go through the motions and develop a regular feel for the activity, it is always changing. If one was simply walking or lifting weights, it becomes repetitive and predictable, the same action is being done over and over. On the other hand with dancing, the actions are coming only from impulses and remain new and exciting. “No, not all forms of dancing will produce the same benefit, especially if they only work on style, or merely retrace the same memorized paths” (Powers 1). If a person does the same amount of exercise every single day, after a while the body becomes accustomed the activity and it no longer has as great as an affect as when it was started. Dancing works the same way. It is important to change it up, the same mundane moves or two-step dance will not do merely as much as a free style dance where a person brings in his or her own rhythm or just move out of impulse.
Dancing is conclusively the best possible way to prevent the onset of dementia, but not all styles of dance can be as beneficial as others. One of the best dances one can do to prevent dementia is ballroom dancing. Ballroom dancing can bear resemblance to a monotonous activity that is boring and repetitive, but there are actually is a substantial amount of thinking and rapid responses involved. “In addition to physical exercise, ballroom dancing is a cognitive activity that requires concentration” (Ballroom Dancing Helps Fight Against Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease 1). Ballroom dancing has more concentration than one might suppose, the steps involved help cognitive activity. “According to the research, ballroom dancing seems to be one of the few physical activities that can delay the onset of dementia and actually re-wire the cerebral cortex” (Ballroom Dancing Helps Fight Against Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease 1). The cerebral cortex is the biggest part of the brain, and with as much brain activity that goes on inside, it is very important of keeping this area active and it can not be stressed enough. In addition to being physically healthy and delaying the onset of dementia, ballroom dancing can actually re-wire the neurons in the cerebral cortex. Re-wiring comes from changes in behavior, emotions, environment and learning new things. Dancing can offer a whole new way of life to a person with all the new movements and effects it has on one’s body. However, when dementia is already acquired ballroom dancing cannot solve the problem completely. Ballroom dancing can only prevent the problem. “Thirty percent of non-ballroom dancing individuals eventually developed dementia, while only 19 percent of the ballroom dancers developed dementia” (McKeeff). The statistics may not appear to be as startling as one would hope, but when it comes to protection against dementia, every advantage offered should be taken. Those who do not partake in this activity potentially have a greater likelihood of developing the disease. Nothing but positive advantages can come out of ballroom dancing and dancing in general. As people grow older it is critical they know these advantages of dancing for their over all health. Ballroom dancing is definitely a wise first step for elderly citizens trying to prevent dementia, but it is not the only dance to dodge the onset of dementia.
When it comes to dancing, doing the same routine over and over becomes tedious and quite useless to the brain and does no service to someone trying to avert dementia. The more spontaneous and unmethodical the dance movements are the better. Free style dancing is also one of the best because the brain is challenged trying to keep up with your body’s motions. “Freestyle dancing requires constant split-second, rapid fire decision making, which is the key to maintaining intelligence because it forces your brain to rewire its neural path ways” (Serlin 1). An intelligent brain is one that stays alert and has to be kept alert from beneficial activities. If the brain is caught off guard when a person is dancing, this can really help the brain stay healthy and continue to work efficiently. The more decisions one makes the more brain activity is going on helping maintain a healthy brain and body. “Frequently freestyle dancing was shown by the study to reduce the risk of dementia by 78 percent-twice as much as reading-and playing sports or practicing choreographed dance sequences which had no benefit at all” (Serlin 1). As with anything else, the frequency of dancing can determine how well it efficiently protects someone. Practice makes perfect and when it comes to protecting oneself, the more dancing that occurs, the better. Having a good dance partner who shares the love and interest of dancing is a beneficial factor, but the same partner can become too familiar. “With different dance partners you have to adjust much more and be aware of move variables” (Powers 5). If a person dances with the same partner for a long period of time, the activity becomes familiar and whether the people dancing notice it or not, it is not new and transforms into monotony. As opposed to when a person is dancing with someone that they have never met before, they are forced to adjust their method of dancing and way in which they are used to in order to match their partner’s rhythm. Not only does using a partner help with the dancing, if someone dances in a group setting the benefits sky rocket.
Going out and dancing with friends is an activity that anyone of any age can enjoy, but for elderly people at risk of developing Dementia, dancing in a group setting can benefit the mind and body in multiple ways and is more beneficial than usual. Dancing is a social activity; it can be done alone, but is much better with a partner or a few friends. For an elderly person it may be hard for them to stick to activities on his or her own, no matter how enjoyable it may be. “This establishes dance as a part of life allowing one to join in group and community expression of feelings such as grief, anger, loss, or joy, and participation in ritual” (Coaten 1). Everyone has an outlet they go to in order to let loose or clear their mind. For senior citizens who have lost that outlet as a result of old age, they need some way of nonverbal expression. Dancing becomes quite therapeutic for these senior citizens; after all they have lived a long hard life. The exercise itself is not only a means to keep you healthy, but a way to escape for a moment and enjoy life for a period of time and let emotions be expressed by movement. “The motor action often sparks memories from the past, which in turn helps confused individuals become more alert and organized” (“Dance/Movement Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease”). The thought of doing exercise one can enjoy followed by a rush of old memories must be so refreshing to a person of old age. The action of dancing can bring back past memories or instincts that can help elderly pick up where they left off or get better bearings with what is going on. Dancing becomes healthy yet nostalgic. One can only imagine the feeling to remember a forgotten memory from years ago, like finding buried treasure planted as a youth. “Disease that impairs memory also affects self-image and esteem; persons with dementia often become depressed and frustrated by their decreased abilities” (Dance/Movement Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease). Emotionally, this disease can eat a person alive, it is so important people are properly informed about the wonders dancing can do. Dementia can be so devastating to the mind to where not only are the patients unaware of their surroundings, they are unaware of simple everyday life that occurs while they are struggling with the disease. It is so important that people know that there is ways to decrease their chances of developing the disease and there is hope. Dancing can be helpful to the mind and should be enjoyed.
Mental health and physical activity go hand in hand in some cases, and in terms of dementia, the best activity one can do to prevent the onset of Dementia is dancing. If a senior citizen is serious about preventing their chances of getting dementia then joining a dance class is a viable option. Dancing as often as possible, and dancing to as wide a variety of music can become beneficial to one’s health. Dementia can be a tragic and horrifying disease, but if people are aware of the steps they need to take in order to prevent it, they can dance as long as they desire with a healthier future.
“Ballroom Dancing Helps Fight Against Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.” The Senior Connection, Web. 5 December 2014.
Coaten, Richard. “Going by the way of the body in Dementia Care.” Community Dance, 15 August 2011. Web. 5 December 2014.
“Dance/Movement Therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease.” American Dance Therapy Association, Web. 5 December 2014.
“Exercise and Physical activity for people with dementia.” Alzheimer’s Society, Web. 23 January 2015.
Gottlieb, Scott. “Mental activity may help prevent dementia.” The BMJ, 28 June 2003. Web. 5 December 2014.
McKeeff, Thomas. “Shall we Dance? Alzheimer’s Takes a Spin With Ballroom Dancing.” Every Day Health, 6 January 2014. Web. 5 December 2014.
Nordqvist, Christian. “How to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.” Medical News Today, 23 July 2013. Web. 23 January 2015.
Powers, Richard. “Use it or Lose it: Dancing Makes You Smarter.” Stanford Dance, 30 July 2010. Web. 5 December 2014.
Serlin, Ilene. “Dancing Away Dementia.” Technology Today, 26 November 2013. Web. 5 December 2014.
Smith, Melinda. “How to Reduce your risk and protect your brain as you age.” Alzheimer’s and Dementia Prevention, December 2014. Web. 23 January 2015.