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Dance away dementia: how dance could be the key to a healthy brain

Discover the causes of dementia and how the art of dance can help you prevent it.

Accomplished Irish playwright and poet George Bernard Shaw once said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” 

As it turns out, this idea may have more science behind it than you thought. Especially when it comes to developing an illness like dementia. 

Dementia is a common illness.  A recent census shows over 44 million people suffer from some sort of dementia worldwide. 

Luckily, there are ways that can help prevent dementia that are fun, too. One of these ways is spending more time on the dance floor!

Read on to discover the common causes of dementia and how the art of dance can help you prevent it.

What is dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term for a decline in mental abilities that interferes with your day-to-day functions. 

The most common diseases that qualify as dementia are Alzheimers and Vascular Dementia. Vascular dementia causes a loss or decline in brain functions due to a stroke. 

Symptoms of dementia can include:

  • Impaired decision making
  • Memory loss 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Hallucinations
  • Loss of balance
  • Slow movements
  • Difficulty speaking clearly and finding words
  • Depression

What causes dementia?

Dementia is related to the gradual death of brain cells. However, the cause of dementia is a “chicken or the egg” scenario. Scientists don’t yet know if dead brain calls cause dementia, or if dementia causes dead brain cells.

Depending on the type of dementia, this disease can also be caused by brain trauma such as a head injury, stroke, or brain tumor. 

How dance can prevent dementia

Who knew cutting a rug may be your key to avoiding dementia?

Research shows that aging adults who participated in some sort of dance regularly were 76% less likely to develop dementia. 

Why is this? Dance provides the benefits of aerobic activity, which helps decrease your risk of depression and other chronic diseases. 

More importantly, incorporating choreography and music into your exercise triggers memory and forces split-second decision making. 

Exercising these parts of your brain creates new neural pathways, making for a sharper and happier mind. 

Some effects dance has on the brain include the following: 

Healthier brain

The material that makes up the brain is typically classified as either “white matter” or “gray matter.”

The “white matter” of the brain, also known as the fornix, is where our functions such as memories are formed. Gray matter’s job is to transport these thoughts and functions to where they need to be. 

Think of the white matter as a bunch of tiny computers, and the grey matter as the WIFI connecting them. A decrease in both white and gray matter has been associated with dementia. 

Research shows dancing has a positive impact on both parts of the brain, causing improvement in cognitive functions. Participants who took part in a regular dance routine better test results in memory and learning assessments. 

Better balance

Dizziness and imbalance are two daunting symptoms of dementia that can cause a serious risk of injury. It was recently found that people suffering from Alzheimer’s fell 54% more than those without it. 

When you dance, you train your brain to suppress signals that the inner ear sends to the brain to tell you that you’re dizzy. 

Thanks to choreography, practicing dance also helps improve your muscle memory. 

Research shows that dance is a useful method of combining the functions of the cerebellum (movement, posture and balance) with those of the cerebrum (thoughts, decisions and actions) in order to improve muscle memory.

Improved mood

A 2014 study by Rush University in Chicago found that in a group of 1700 aging people tracked over the years, 18% developed dementia and all of them reported higher levels of depression before its onset. 

Dancing helps treat and prevent depression by releasing endorphins; the chemicals that make you feel happy. 

According to The Arts in Psychotherapy, dancing’s more effective in battling depression than vigorous exercise. 

Life is beautiful, and you want to do everything you can to protect yours! Dementia prevention isn’t the only perk of dancing.

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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.
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