Reducing the Risk of Dementia with Mobile Health Apps

The internet and the digital age are delivering promising solutions to help support people who are living with Dementia. In a recent study conducted by the University of South Florida, an mHealth app helped reduce the chances of developing dementia by almost 30 percent over a decade, according to mHealth Intelligence.

A Potential Cure for a Long Standing Challenge

Dementia can have a devastating effect on the elderly and their families, however, there may be true promise in mobile apps being developed to address it. The application used in the study was designed to help seniors “train their brains” to, ultimately, lower the chance of developing dementia. Many medical experts believe prevention may ultimately be the best cure.

According to Senior Director of Medical and Scientific Operations with the Alzheimer’s Association, this is the first time cognitive training intervention has shown promise in protecting against cognitive impairment or dementia in a real trial.

Dementia By The Numbers

Dementia is a widespread problem that affects millions, roughly 14 percent of seniors over the age of 71, and 30 percent of those over the age of 90 experience dementia in some form, according to mHealth Intelligence. An estimated 5.5 million Americans are currently affected by Dementia, and by 2050, this number could rise as high as 16 million.

Right now, Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. It causes fatality more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops this disease, and more than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of Dementia.

Reducing the Risk of Dementia with Brain Training

Brain training games can boost the memory and reduce the risk of dementia, according to new research. A study conducted by Cambridge University found that video games can improve the brain function of those with early memory challenges, a common precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, according to Telegraph.

In the study, participants were given an iPad to play a game in which they could win gold coins by arranging patterns correctly. While this was found to be effective, many people got bored with the repetitive nature. Participants played the game for two hours a week while the control group played no video games at all. In the end, players were able to improve what is called “episodic” memory by nearly 50%.

This type of memory is key in helping with day-to-day activities like remembering where keys are left or where one parks their car.

The Future of Brain Training

Larger trials are currently planned to see how far the benefits of playing games can go when it comes to increasing the chance of preventing dementia. While there is currently no drug that can control the symptoms, the app and gaming findings are promising. And while it may not ultimately be able to totally prevent or cure memory diseases, it is a promising way to improve early memory symptoms of the disease, Dr. Tara Spires-Jones, Interim Director at Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems at Edinburgh University, told Telegraph in an interview.

If anything, she says, it reinforces previous work that cognitive training improves memory in people with mild cognitive impairment. Still, other experts are skeptical, like Richard Howard, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry at UCL. According to him, there is little evidence brain training can protect against dementia. Because this was an uncontrolled and open study, we can’t be sure how much significance to place on these small improvements.

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