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“Every 65 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease in the United States,” says the Alzheimer’s Association. That fact is equally surprising and frightening to me. My great grandmother Doris was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease many years ago. I remember her as a charming and generous woman. I recall that she let my sisters and I play dress up with her many hats. My mom remembers that eventually Doris no longer recognized her husband, children or grandchildren. It was as though Doris left us, even though her body lived on. Many of you can probably relate. Maybe you know someone suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Perhaps you recognize the symptoms in yourself, or worse, you don’t even realize it but your family is recognizing the symptoms in you. My own mother worries that she will also develop Alzheimer’s disease because she shares the same genes as her grandmother. I’ve often wondered if I’m predisposed to it, and if there is anything we can do now to prolong or prevent the disease.
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Dementia is a general term that refers to many various diseases with symptoms of impaired memory loss, communication, and thinking. Alzheimer’s disease falls under the dementia category, but is not the only manifestation of dementia. The likelihood of developing dementia increases with age, but it still is not a normal part of aging, says Medical News Today. There isn’t a definitive answer to what causes these kinds of brain diseases. New studies reveal that although we can’t control our genetic history, there are lifestyle changes that could impact the health of our brain, according to alzdiscovery.org, hence the importance of “brain awareness”. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia related diseases. Brain function is arguably one of the most important bodily functions. Damage to the brain caused by these diseases is irreversible.Early detection is key to prevent or slow further damage.
At Be Active Be Well, we constantly promote overall wellness. A healthy balanced diet low in fat and high in vegetables and fruit is recommended to help reduce cognitive decline. Alzdiscovery.org recommends leafy greens and berries to promote brain vitality. Your doctor and nutritionist can also recommend specific supplements and vitamins to target individual needs. If you have opted for a healthier diet, you are already promoting brain health and better cognitive function. Exercise, injury prevention and safety, quitting smoking, and mental health care also promote brain health. Staying connected socially is another way to stimulate cognitive function, and regular reading is also beneficial. In the same way that we exercise our body to stay fit, we must find ways to exercise our brain to keep it functioning optimally. The purpose of raising awareness of brain health isn’t meant to frighten anyone, but to remind all of us that overall wellness involves every aspect of our bodies, both physically and mentally. We will continue to explore this topic throughout the month.
“Aging is not ‘lost youth’ but a new stage of opportunity and strength.” —Betty Friedan, Writer
DISCLAIMER: This article contains information that is intended to help the readers be better informed regarding exercise and health care. It is presented as general advice on health care. Always consult your doctor for your individual needs. Before beginning any new exercise program it is recommended that you seek medical advice from your personal physician. This article is not intended to be a substitute for the medical advice of a licensed physician. The reader should consult with their doctor in any matters relating to his/her health.