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Acupuncture and brain exercises ward of dementia

Acupuncture and brain exercises ward of dementia

Developing dementia is a common fear, and if you’ve ever experienced a friend of loved one going through the brutal disorder, you’ll know just how cruel a process it is. But two new studies have highlighted ways we can stave off dementia.

The first, from a group of scientists in China, concluded that acupuncture can help elderly people retain their memory when used for at least two months, three times a week. The team from Wuhan University found the ancient Chinese treatment, where fine needles are inserted into certain parts of the body, helped those with mild cognitive impairment, a memory declining condition that often leads to a dementia diagnosis, more than the people who just used dementia drug nimodipine by itself.

The scientists reviewed findings of five previous studies, involving a total of 568 patients. The results have been published in BMJ journal Acupuncture, but authors say more research needs to be done into the area.

The second study comes from America, where Dr Jerri Edwards and her team carried out a 10-year study looking at how mental exercises affect dementia. It was found that speed training, computer exercises that get users to visually process information more quickly, was the most effective, with just 11 sessions cutting an older person’s risk of developing dementia by 48 per cent. Furthermore each exercise can cut the risk by 8 per cent every time.

“The mistake some people make is thinking that all brain training is the same,” Dr Edwards said.

“Lumping all brain training together is like trying to determine the effectiveness of antibiotics by looking at the universe of all pills, and including sugar pills and dietary supplements in that analysis.”

Speed training emphasises visual perception, with the participants of the study asked to identify objects on screen quickly. The task got harder with each correct answer.

“Dementia by definition involves functional impairment,” Dr. Edwards explained. “So if we’re improving people’s everyday functional performance through speed training, their likelihood of developing dementia may go down.”

Dr Edwards recommends people start speed training at age 50.

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