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Learning is imperative for healthy aging, presenter says

Lone Tree Recreation Center hosts lecture on cognitive health

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More than 50 attendees packed the conference room at the Lone Tree Recreation Center Feb. 27 to learn about what happens to the brain as a person ages.

The lecture, given by Todd Chambers, licensed clinical social worker and owner of senior home-care provider All the Comfort of Home, located in Denver, covered techniques for keeping the brain sharp as one ages, as well as signs of Alzheimer's and resources available for those suffering from dementia and their loved ones.

“The term 'use it or lose it is true,'” Chambers told the crowd. “When it comes to brain function, learning is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Play new games, read the paper, read books, attend lectures.”

According to Chambers, three factors play a major role in how well a person will age — genes, environment and lifestyle.

“Develop a regular exercise program that works for you. Start out small and move safely,” said Chambers. “Cardiovascular activity may reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Regular and vigorous exercise leads to increased blood flow. Stop smoking, drink in moderation and get adequate sleep.”

Chambers moved onto the topic that many in the audience had come to learn more about — Alzheimer's.

“I heard there is no way to diagnose Alzheimer's disease,” was a statement made by several in the crowd.

Chambers assured them that was incorrect.

“You can absolutely diagnose Alzheimer's,” he said. “We use a clinical interview that can give us a good idea of whether or not someone is suffering from Alzheimer's or other types of dementia.”

Dementia is an umbrella term for several diseases, including Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Chambers said it can be difficult to admit that a loved one, or yourself, may be exhibiting signs of dementia, but it's important to talk to your doctor.

“If you were concerned you may have cancer, you would go get checked pretty quickly,” said Chambers. “There's a concern with signs of dementia that 'oh, we don't want to embarrass anyone,' especially when dealing with parents or loved ones.”

Chambers recommended keeping a calendar, noting incidents that may be signs of dementia. Misplacing your car keys, for example, is not a sign. However, placing your car keys in the freezer, or donning a winter coat in the middle of summer, are signs of possible dementia.

Sandy Bainbridge attended the lecture, and is president of the Summit County Seniors group in Frisco. She came to learn more about the subject to take information back to her group.

“This was fabulous,” she said. “Summit County is one of the fastest-growing for the senior population, and this is great information to have.”

Chambers commended the crowd for attending the lecture, and reminded them it's not too late to start an exercise regimen, both physically and mentally.

“You're to be commended. You're here, you're listening, you're learning something new. That's a start.”

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