A key treatment doctors prescribe to slow the progress of dementia does not work, a staggering new Oxford University study has found.
Exercise, once considered a pivotal prescription for slowing the development of dementia, is useless once the disease sets in.
“The findings in the study are very disconcerting – it goes against something which we assumed was true,” said Royal Melbourne Hospital geriatrician Dr Kate Gregorevic.
“I have always recommended exercise. This makes me question my practice.”
However, regular exercise throughout life does seem to cut your risk of developing dementia in the first place.
With more than one-third of Australians aged between 70 and 90 expected to experience cognitive decline, and 30 per cent of those developing dementia and Alzheimer’s, doctors are at a loss for what to prescribe to help mitigate the disease.
While there are myriad studies and lab tests for drugs, treatments and experimental ministrations, there are currently no effective remedies for dementia.
High-intensity exercise was one that seemed to help.
But the results of a large trial published in the British Medical Journal last month revealed that exercise does not help at all once the symptoms are apparent.
The study analysed 329 people with mild to moderate dementia who did weight training and high-intensity exercise twice a week over a four-month period.
Brain tests after this regimen not only revealed no positive effect, but showed that symptoms had actually worsened.
However, not all experts are convinced of the accuracy of the study, with some pointing out potential flaws in the methodology.
But one of Australia’s top dementia experts, Professor Kaarin Anstey, says the research should be taken seriously.
“It’s very disappointing, actually, that they did not find an effect. It needs to be replicated, of course. But it does raise questions about when we should be intervening. It’s possible there is a threshold after which there won’t be benefit,” said Prof. Anstey.
“We know physical activity is associated with decreased risk of getting dementia, that’s well established in other studies. The prevention message has not changed. This study is about how late in the disease it’s going to have a benefit.”
Read more at SMH.
Do you exercise regularly in the hope that it will prevent dementia? Do you know of any examples where the progress of dementia has been slowed by exercise or another treatment?