According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, which is a general term for memory loss and other cognitive abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s makes up 60-80 percent of dementia cases.
With June being Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month let’s learn more about this difficult disease.
According to experts, Alzheimer’s cases develop often as a result of multiple complex factors that interact such as: age, genetics, environment, lifestyle and coexisting medical conditions.
Other preventable risk factors include obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and uncontrolled type 2 diabetes.
Symptoms of Alzheimer’s, according to the Mayo Clinic, begin with difficulty remembering things and organizing thoughts. Occasional memory lapses are normal, however memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s not only persists but typically worsens which can eventually affect every part of life.
Some symptoms to watch for include: repeating statements or questions over and over; getting lost in familiar places; forgetting conversations, appointments, or events; eventually forgetting names of family and friends; and losing items and placing them in uncommon places. Managing more than one task at a time becomes very difficult for someone struggling with Alzheimer’s. Making judgments and decisions can also become compromised.
Some of the hardest symptoms for families to experience when a loved one is experiencing memory decline are the changes in their behavior and personality.
Studies have shown that exercise and your diet are two ways you can help prevent Alzheimer’s from developing in the first place. 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week has been shown to reduce your risk. As always, start slow and discuss this with your healthcare provider if you are new to exercise. Moving more adds up, so start with 10 minutes of walking and add minutes from there.
Both the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet have been shown to support a healthy brain, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The DASH diet includes fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish and poultry. This diet plan is focused on a lower sodium intake to help combat high blood pressure. You can learn more at www.dashdiet.org.
The Mediterranean diet includes fruits, vegetables, little or no red meat, fish, shellfish, nuts and healthy fats like olive oil and avocado. The World Health Organization recognizes this diet as a healthy and sustainable dietary plan that is plant based. This eating pattern is also heart-healthy and has been recommended to help promote health and prevent chronic disease.
Learn more at www.medinsteadofmeds.com.
If you or a loved one are experiencing cognitive issues, I urge you to have a discussion with your health care provider. A trusted resource for reliable information, education, and support is the Alzheimer’s Association visit them at www.alz.org. There is also a 24/7 Helpline: 800-272-3900.
Laura Rodi is the health and wellness manager at the Jackson County Department on Aging.