Every June, advocates, volunteers, health professionals, caregivers, and family members come together to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s and brain awareness. Supporters wear purple in solidarity for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia on The Longest Day, June 21.
One of the best ways you can support brain health for yourself and others is through education and awareness. Looking for a way to stay informed? Here are 5 things you need to know about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia:
1. Alzheimer’s Disease & Dementia: Know Your Facts
If you or a loved one struggles with dementia, you’re already aware of many of the challenges that accompany neurodegenerative (brain-based) disorders. The memory loss, decline in cognitive skills, and lapses in communication associated with dementia can have devastating consequences. Here is how these disorders affect Americans:
- One in three seniors dies from Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia
- Alzheimer’s deaths have increased 145% between 2000 and 2017
- Caregivers are affected too: more than 16 million Americans care for friends or family with Alzheimer’s or dementia (without pay)
- Someone develops Alzheimer’s Disease every 65 seconds in the U.S.
Aside from the emotional toll of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, together these degenerative disorders cost the U.S. $290 billion in healthcare costs.
2. Treatments are Available, but There is No Cure (Yet)
Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and there is unfortunately no cure.
Though some of the statistics on Alzheimer’s and dementia can seem overwhelming, it’s important to recognize that researchers are busy working on a cure for these common degenerative brain disorders. For example, the Alzheimer’s Association helps fund research efforts into novel new medicines that may have an impact in the future.
In the meantime, be aware that there are treatments available to help slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia. Special medications can help decrease everyday symptoms so that those with dementia can enjoy a better quality of life. There are also medications available to help control the anxiety and sleep issues that often impact those with Alzheimer’s Disease.
3. Recognize the Common Signs & Symptoms
Because only 16% of seniors get cognitive check-ups when they visit the doctor, it’s important to stay informed of some of the major signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia:
- Memory loss
- Issues recognizing family and friends
- Losing items
- Difficulty with everyday activities, like getting dressed
- Unusual emotional outbursts
- Poor judgment and decision-making
- Problems with reading, writing, or communicating
Although these symptoms don’t necessarily mean that an individual has Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, it’s important to use the month of June as a time to reassess your own or a loved one’s behavior. Has anything recently changed? Or have changes been building up for a long time? Now is the time to address any concerns you might have with your doctor.
4. Early Detection from Health Professionals Can Make All the Difference
While it’s important to stay educated and informed about Alzheimer’s signs and symptoms, don’t overlook the importance of including healthcare professionals early on. Early detection of degenerative disorders can make all the difference in intervention and treatment options.
When you or a loved one sees your primary care doctor, make sure to highlight any concerns you might have about changing behavior, memory loss, or lapses in concentration. Your primary doctor may be able to ask some preliminary questions to see if you are at risk of Alzheimer’s. In other cases, you might be referred to a specialist who can evaluate your cognitive and psychological state.
In addition, you may not realize that there are some unique ways to detect Alzheimer’s Disease. For example, testing someone’s sense of smell can highlight people with a greater chance of having dementia. In addition, hearing loss can sometimes be a sign of brain atrophy. Scheduling an audiology appointment may be a useful tool in identifying early stages of dementia — and getting the help you need.
5. You Can Help Protect Your Brain
Though researchers are still working hard on discovering a cure to Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, there are some things you and your loved ones can do to support brain health this June — and beyond.
- Exercise with Friends. Regular exercise can help keep your brain nourished with oxygen-rich blood. And regularly walking or exercising with friends is a great way to stay socially engaged — which creates another boost for your brain.
- Keep Healthy. Did you know that a Mediterranean Diet — rich in vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats — can help support a healthy brain and heart? Adopting other healthy lifestyle habits, like getting enough sleep at night, can also make a huge difference.
- Keep Learning. Healthy brains are active and curious. Take a class, learn a new language, read books that fascinate and challenge you, start new hobbies — anything to keep yourself learning and engaged for a healthy brain and a happier life.
- Ditch the Bad Stuff. It goes without saying that quitting unhealthy habits like smoking cigarettes can make a huge difference not just for brain health, but for your health overall.
To support your family and community, stay educated on Alzheimer’s and brain health this month. Protect your brain through healthy activities and hobbies, research the latest in Alzheimer’s news and research, and make sure you keep in touch with your healthcare professional to support early detection.