Alzheimer’s Prevention and Physical Therapy?- 2 new studies that might have more in common than you think.

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You may already be asking yourself- What does Dementia and Physical Therapy have to do with each other? More than you might know! Dr. Grace Walker, physical and occupational therapist, has reviewed two new studies that you might want to know about.

Elder woman exercising outdoors with free-weights and smiling

  • What is Dementia, and how does Alzheimer’s disease differ?

This is one of the most common questions which can be answered quite simply. Dementia is an umbrella term for symptoms such as impaired memory or thinking. It is commonly associated with the cognitive decline of aging. Many conditions cause dementia such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.

Alzheimer’s disease, as of now, has no cure. It is caused by abnormal protein deposits in the brain which form plaques and tangles in the brain. Connections between the neurons (communication cells) in the brain are lost and begin to die. The lack of communication between cells in the brain causes the symptoms of dementia.


Brenda Vrkljan, associate professor of occupational therapy at McMaster University in Hamilton, has found the “clock-drawing test” to be a useful screening tool to measure cognitive impairment in patients with signs of dementia. It has been proven so useful that Ontario adopted this test for its senior drivers. Poor scores do not result in the license being revoked, however, they do signal the need for a closer look at the drivers physical and cognitive condition.

Vrkljan warns against family members administering this test at home as “there is a standardized approach to how you score it.” So don’t try to make your grandfather try to draw a clock after you’ve read this- he might not be too excited about you testing his clock-drawing abilities, anyhow.


  • Prevention and regulation of symptoms is possible.

Recent studies have shown that exercise programs can help reduce the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and regulate symptoms of dementia. This is done a few different ways.

  1. Slow mental decline– exercise has been shown to slow brain atrophy (degeneration), especially in the hippocampus, which can influence memory and spatial navigation.
  2. Reduce the risk of falls– changes in judgement and spatial control contribute to tendency to fall. Exercises improve balance and reduce the fear of falling.
  3. Improve physical function– mobility, balance, coordination, and strength.
  4. Improve sleep– sleep disorders are common in dementia patients. Exercise can help one fall into a normal sleep pattern.


At Walker Physical Therapy and Pain Center, our staff of trained physical therapists are here to help you and your loved ones design and carry out supervised exercise programs. We come up with personalized programs for each patient to provide results in an affordable, fun, healing environment.

Call Walker Physical Therapy and Pain Center to schedule an appointment with an expert and caring physical therapist!


1111 W. Town and Country Rd., Ste. 1

Orange, CA 92868

Phone: (714) 997-5518

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