June is recognized as Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, and serves as 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.
An estimated 44 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and everyone who has a brain is at risk according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Knowing the signs can help one identify Alzheimer’s disease.
“Alzheimer's is a disorder of the brain that affects memory, thinking and reasoning,” said Sheila Heiser, FNP, a family medicine provider at Aspirus Phillips Clinic. “It gets worse over time. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, most people display their first signs and symptoms when they're in their mid-60s; those signs and symptoms can include issues such as getting lost in familiar places or losing track of the day or year.”
Growing research suggests that certain habits can help people’s brains stay young as they ager.
“Exercise appears to benefit the brain just like it benefits muscles,” Heiser said. “In fact, the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation reports exercise might both stave off mental decline and possibly even reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Diet is important as well. For better brain health, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends making your diet heart-healthy – one that's low in saturated fats and trans fats and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.”
Other habits such as getting enough sleep, eliminating tobacco use and staying social are ways to keep the brain healthy, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Many Aspirus locations host Alzheimer's support group gatherings and community memory cafés. To find these offerings, visit aspirus.org/classes-events.