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Dementia Symptoms Peak in Winter and Spring, Study Finds

A new study shows that dementia symptoms have seasons, not quite unlike physical illnesses that seem to manifest more so in certain times of the year, for example, influenza, which is at its peak during the winter season. In the latest study, researchers looking at adults, both with and without Alzheimer’s, found that they have better cognition skills in late summer and early fall than in winter and spring, Eurekalert reports.

Not only that, they also found that the odds of meeting diagnostic criteria for dementia were higher during winter and spring. Scientists said this information may help with decision-making regarding dementia-related clinical resources.

It’s interesting that this study focused on the seasonality of cognitive skills, with findings that build on other science we already know to be true. Specifically, those who have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are very much aware of how the change in seasons affects their feelings and thinking capacity. SAD is a form of depression that typically ramps up in the fall and winter months, and disappears or lessens when spring arrives.

The common denominator in both SAD and this cognition study is the physiological process that our bodies go through as a result of our circadian rhythm, which is calibrated by exposure to natural sunlight and darkness. To that end, we know that regular exposure to sunlight is a crucial part of this equation; hence, the long, dark days of winter can put a literal shade on the good things that sunlight exposure can bring about.

Two more keys to addressing SAD and depression of any sort, as well as dementia, are physical activity and, of course, diet. Since restoring mitochondrial function is a cornerstone of successful dementia prevention and treatment, in addition to exercise, one of the most powerful ways to optimize mitochondrial function is cyclical ketosis, which I explain in my book, “Fat for Fuel.”

Exercise, however, is a powerful influencer when it comes to emotions and cognitive function. In fact, researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden revealed that women with the highest cardiovascular fitness had an 88 percent lower risk of dementia than those with moderate fitness. Further, even maintaining average cardiovascular fitness is worthwhile, as women with the lowest cardiovascular fitness had a 41 percent greater risk of dementia than those of average fitness.

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