Science has uncovered significant information about Alzheimer’s disease in recent years, including ways that individuals can spot the signs of this condition. Much remains to be learned, however, researchers continue to study potential risk factors like the environment, physical activity, nutrition and brain fitness.
September is World Alzheimer’s Month, a global effort to increase awareness and eradicate the stigma associated with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This month marks the sixth annual observance of World Alzheimer’s Month, incorporating the theme “Remember Me” to promote the role of early detection and diagnosis.
What Should You Know About Alzheimer’s?
The Centers for Disease Control notes that Alzheimer’s — the most common type of dementia — impacts the portions of the brain that drive memory, language and thought. Although risk of developing the disease increases with age, it is not a routine component of aging.
Most individuals with Alzheimer’s are older than 65, but younger people can develop the disease. While scientists don’t know the specific cause, evidence suggests that Alzheimer’s develops in the presence of numerous influences – some genetic and some environmental.
Around the world, nearly 8 million new cases of dementia develop each year. By 2030, more than 75 million people are expected to have the disease and that number will rise to more than 135 million by 2050 unless researchers and medical professionals can find ways to stop the progression.
Steps You Can Take
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia can significantly impact individuals’ ability to live independently and continue to participate in normal daily activities. What are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from this debilitating disease?
Eat a healthy diet, including foods thought to protect brain health such as nuts, cocoa and dark chocolate, Omega 3-rich fish like salmon, colorful fruits and vegetables and turmeric. Get regular exercise — especially weight training, which research has shown may help improve brain health and cognitive functioning.
Try to engage in activities that encourage with others and broaden your intellectual horizons by taking a class, reading, playing games, picking up a new language or learning to play a musical instrument. Keep an eye on your heart health; reduced blood flow to your brain can heighten the risk of stroke, which in turn can increase the chances of developing dementia.
Consider adding some classical music selections to your home stereo or smartphone. In addition to World Alzheimer’s Month, September is also Classical Music Month — a great time to develop your musical appreciation and potentially further protect your brain health.
Research has found that certain classical music — including Mozart — may boost gene activity in areas of the brain that influence learning and memory. The music may also have a positive impact on a gene that affects the risk of Parkinson’s disease.
Most importantly, learn to recognize the early signs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and work with your doctor to develop a prevention plan. Elder Care Alliance’s BridgeHaven Learning Series presentations offer expert information on various aspects of the condition, including the ways in which art and creativity can inspire dementia patients and how you can better communicate with your loved one.