Dancing Dementia

Alzheimers is a growing epidemic - millions of dollars is spent trying to fight and understand it. Now hope is springing from some unlikely sources without realising it seniors like Val Churchwood are also at the cutting edge of research.

Val is about to celebrate her 80th birthday - she has been dancing for 72 years. She says her weekly tap classes are keeping her physically and mentally young, "definitely physically fit but the mental aspects of it most important because I see so many ladies pushing 80's and who are starting to forget things and it is so important to keep yourself mentally active - and dancing does that for you? Oh yes definitely it's my joy!"

Dance Teacher Jody Marshall has been dancing for 52 years. And now the facts to prove it. Dr Ralph Martins from the McCusker Alzheimer's Research Foundation and Edith Cowan University has just finished clinical trials showing how a combination of mental activity and exercise is the best way to reduce the risk of developing alzheimers. "I think dancing takes it to another level it brings in exercise and it brings exercise in the form of learning they have got to learn new skills how to move in particular ways and so that's wonderful."

With 1700 new cases of Alzheimers disease every week - there are now around 300 thousand Australians suffering.

For some people genetics will decide if they get alzheimers but researchers say for the vast majority of us lifestyle factors a good diet, brain stimulation and regular exercise will be the major factor in preventing this awful disease.

Here in Perth's hills - Zumba instructors Amber Mills and Russel Phillips are seeing a big increase in demand from people who aren't just looking to get fit - they want to exercise their brains. "We're seeing more mature age women come into zumba classes I think it's because they've made the connection that dancing is also good for the mind as well as the body, so we know about the physical benefits it's obviously good for your body but they feel more connected dancing makes friends it's really social."

Professor Martin says it's never too late to start - dancing can in some cases even reverse dementia, "so definitely people in their 30's mid 30's to 40's should be starting to get the best benefit 31 and the trick is what makes it very exciting is that we have shown that exercise physical activity can bring the amyloid down 39 so basically that better than taking a drug to bring the amyloid down."

This tiny Kakadu plum - grown in the northern territory, Queensland and WA that could be the next big dementia busting thing. Professor Martin says "it's early days but I am excited I have now started looking at in regards to alzheimers and I keep mentioning how central it is to alzheimers pathology is beta amyloid and what we have done is we have taken brain cells in a dish we have exposed them to beta amyloid which kills starts killing them and when we give them the Kakadu plum extracts we rescue them that is very exciting." The plums are in short supply and not easy to get but Chinese investors are already showing a big interest. Researchers are calling for more Australian funding to conduct further tests before a possible clinical trial. "It is going to add another layer of protection for the brain and it is going to be much more powerful than most of the other antioxidants that have been tested before."

Further details

Dancing for dementia



Zumba with Amba - ambermills1@bigpond.com

0400 099 627