June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are “not” an inevitable part of aging if you are willing to maintain the health of your brain
What is Alzheimer's disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It is caused by damage to nerve cells (neurons) in the brain and is a progressive disease.
The neurons damaged first are those in parts of the brain responsible for memory, language, and thinking. As a result, the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease tend to be mild memory loss, impaired language skills, and difficulty thinking clearly.
As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s patients often lose the ability to carry on conversations and respond to their environment. Interestingly, changes in the brain that cause these symptoms are thought to begin 20 years earlier.
What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
Normal brain aging may mean slower processing speeds and more challenges managing multiple tasks.
It’s not abnormal to occasionally forget recent events, such as where you put your keys or the name of a person you just met. However, the following ten warning signs may merit attention, especially if they are increasing in frequency or intensity:
- Memory losses that disrupt daily life
- Struggling with challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work, or leisure
- Confusion about where or when something occurs
- Struggling to understand visual images and judging distances
- Difficulty finding the right words when speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Diminished or poor judgment
- Withdrawing from work or social activities
- Changes in mood and personality
What can you do to keep your brain healthy?
Studies show that healthy behaviors, which can reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease, may also reduce your risk for cognitive decline.
The Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention, and care suggest that addressing risk factors “may prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases.” More importantly, the sooner you engage in health-improving behaviors, the better.
Here’s what you can do:
- Quit smoking (and reduce your exposure to second-hand smoke).
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure level.
- Be physically active most days of the week.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Get enough sleep.
- Stay socially engaged with friends, family, or in your community.
- Manage your blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Stay mentally engaged through hobbies, reading, puzzles, etc.
- Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet.
- Get an annual check-up and take medications as prescribed by your doctor.
If you have questions concerning your brain health or cognitive function, speak to your medical provider. They can help you with decisions regarding further evaluation, interventions, and treatment.
Resources for healthy living:
- How to Quit Smoking
- Manage High Blood Pressure
- Getting Started with Physical Activity
- Keeping It Off
- Are You Getting Enough Sleep?
- Loneliness and Social Isolation – Tips for Staying Connected
- Manage Blood Sugar
- Five Lifestyle Changes to Improve Your Cholesterol
- 6 Ways to Engage Your Brain
- Eating Healthy for a Healthy Weight
- Why You Need an Annual Physical (and What to Expect)
- Why You Need to Take Your Medications as Prescribed or Instructed
Contact the Moultrie County Health Department for further information on the above health tips and resources.
Content resources for individuals with dementia and their caregivers:
- Alzheimer’s Association: Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia, 2022 Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures (PDFs available for download)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging, 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s (PDFs available for download)
- National Institute on Aging: Getting Help with Alzheimer’s Caregiving
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Tips for Caregivers and Families of People With Dementia, Can I Prevent Dementia?
- The Lancet Commission: 2020 Report on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care (PDF available for download)