Although we still have no cure for Alzheimer’s, there is a growing body of research to support dementia prevention through ballroom dance.
A 21-year long observational study of senior citizens by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine focused on the impact of regular cognitive and physical activities on mental acuity as measured by dementia rates. Of the 13 leisure activities studied, researchers found dance to have the greatest risk reduction of any cognitive or physical activity studied; frequent ballroom dancers lowered their risk of dementia by 76% compared to non-dancers. This study, titled Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003.
Analysis of these results suggests that dancing encourages neuroplasticity in the cerebral cortex and hippocampus areas of the brain. Dance lowers the risk of dementia by engaging participants in complex multitasking and split-second decision-making, creating new neural paths, increased complexity of neuronal synapses and greater cognitive reserve. Additional studies suggest that dance slows the progress and reduces symptoms of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s.