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Study: Ballroom Dancing Can Help Delay Onset of Dementia

First Posted: Jul 27, 2014 04:00 PM EDT
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Dancing is one of the newest activities thought to delay the onset of dementia in those at risk for Alzheimer's.

A Swedish study released last week showed that eating well and engaging in social activity will slow the onset of dementia, according to Fox Latino.

Dr. Joe Verghese, a professor of neurology and medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, said dancing was one of the best options.

"Cognitive activities had a strong effect on reducing the risk of dementia," Verghese said, based on findings of his study published in a journal recently. "Physical activities overall did not ... But among the 11 activities we looked at, dancing was the only [physical activity] shown to have an effect."

The reason is it requires a significant amount of physical effort and is a more analytical activity, he said.

"Dance clearly involves a lot of aerobic activity and physical effort," Verghese explained, "which is associated with increased blood flow to the brain, [simulating] brain growth factors and new connections in the brain. But dancing is also a cognitive activity ... [involving] a lot of mental effort."

The American Dance Therapy Association believe that the rhythmic and repetitive motions of dance help "foster perceptual and cognitive organization," according to their website.

"The motor action often sparks memories, which in turn helps confused individuals become more alert and organized," the website says.

The ADTA has promoted the findings of studies that support this idea as early as 2001.

A letter to the editor published in a journal in 2003 highlights the benefits of Dance/Movement Therapy (DMT) and the ease of incorporating the activity at nursing homes -- even with staff that is not specifically trained for the type of therapy.

Ballroom dancing has proven to be especially helpful, according to a 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study followed hundreds of individuals for more than two decades. Out of nine leisurely activities that were measured, only ballroom dancing was shown to lower the risk of dementia.

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