Each year, the month of June is dedicated to Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, June is “an opportunity to hold a conversation about the brain and share the fact that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are a major public health issue. Everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer’s, the only leading cause of death that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed.”
Nearly 55 million people are living with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia, and that number is expected to reach 132 million by 2050!
So, what’s the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?
Dementia is a brain condition that affects the part of the brain that controls memory, language, and thoughts. Alzheimer’s is just one form of dementia. While your risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age, Alzheimer’s is not “normal aging.” Alzheimer’s develops most commonly in those over the age of 65, but some younger people can develop it too.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary depending on the severity of the disease. The most common early symptom is difficulty remembering NEW information. Alzheimer’s typically begins in the part of the brain that affects learning. As the disease progresses, symptoms can include:
- Mood and behavior changes
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks
- Misplacing or losing items
- Confusion about events, times, and places
- Unfounded suspicions about family and friends
- Difficulty speaking, walking, and swallowing.
At this time, there’s no evidence to suggest dementia can be prevented. There are current studies that suggest certain habits boost your brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. The Alzheimer’s Association created a list of 10 ways to help your brain health as you age:
- Eat healthy. Eating low-fat foods and lots of fruits and vegetables reduces brain decline.
- Take care of your heart! Taking care of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease will also improve your brain and reduce your risk of dementia.
- Get a good night’s sleep!
- Exercise regularly.
- Quit smoking. Smoking is strongly associated with dementia.
- Stay social. Find ways to stay engaged that are meaningful and bolster your personal interests.
- Keep an active mind. Play games, do puzzles, crossword puzzles, and other activities that challenge your brain to think more.
- Prevent injury. Make sure you always wear a seatbelt. Wear a helmet while riding a bike. Be sure to use a handrail while going up and down stairs to prevent falls.
- Learn something new. Education reduces your risk for dementia. Keeping your brain enriched by learning, reading, or taking a class.
- Take care of your mental health. Depression is linked in studies to a higher risk of brain decline. Make sure you seek medical treatment for depression, anxiety, or any mental health issue.
We’re Here to Help
Please know Blue KC is here to support you on your health journey. Nurse Case Managers from our Care Management Team are here to help you find the providers, resources, and tools needed to keep your brain and body healthy and happy.
One of the best ways to connect with our Care Management Team is with the Blue KC Care Management app. You can download the app or simply scan the QR code below with your smartphone.