This month is Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness month, so let's talk about what exactly Alzheimer's Disease is, who's at risk and most likely to be affected. Plus some easy bonus tips you can start doing today to help protect yourself from getting Alzheimer's.
What is Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that affects behaviors, memory and thinking. Symptoms slowly develop over time and worsen until they affect and interfere with daily tasks.
The most common symptom in early Alzheimer's is trouble remembering newly learned information. Obviously memory loss is the biggest symptom, but it's not always easy to detect. The disease starts by affecting your ability to remember more recent information first, leaving your older memories in tact. As the disease progresses, those memories will be affected too.
Some other symptoms include:
- Challenges in planning or solving problems.
- Spatial awareness and disorientation issues.
- Confusion with time or place.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
- New problems with words in speaking or writing.
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Who Is At Risk?
Scientists agree that multiple factors contribute to an Alzheimer's diagnosis, like genetics, lifestyle and environment. The largest factor is age- the older you are, the more likely you are to develop Alzheimer's.
The next largest factor is family history. If a parent or sibling had Alzheimer's you're more likely to also develop it because it seems to be hereditary. It isn't necessarily going to happen, but you're more likely to get it than if there's no family history of the disease.
Lastly, some risk factors that you can control are environmental. Try to avoid any head injuries by wearing a helmet during physical activities and fall proof your house. Also, keep an eye on your heart health as there's a direct correlation between a healthy heart and a healthy brain. For more in depth information on risk factors, click here.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's, but there are some treatments that can slow the progression of the disease. Research is ongoing to try and learn more, find better treatments and prevention techniques. You should contact your doctor to discuss your treatment options.
Women & Alzheimer's
More than two thirds of all Americans suffering from Alzheimer's, are women. So why are women at a higher risk of developing this disease than men? Scientists believe that this could be due to multiple factors including social and biological.
Since women live longer than men on average, this has been the predominate theory for the extra risk of developing Alzheimer's in women. But a new theory is that this predisposition might be related to menopausal hormonal changes.
This study found some interesting connections between female brain function and hormone circulation throughout the body, but much is still left to be learned. Researchers are still testing this theory so there's no way to draw a definitive conclusion at this time, but it does have potential to explain this anomaly.
More on women & Alzheimer's.
How to Prevent Alzheimer's
While we still don't know the exact cause of Alzheimer's, there are a few things you can do regularly to keep your brain healthy and functioning to hopefully ward off Alzheimer's. Some of these activities include:
- Mediterranean diet high in Omega-3 & Omega-6 healthy fats.
- Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night.
- Drink a glass of red wine or eat some dark chocolate, in moderation.
- Aerobic exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
- Actively socializing keeps the brain forming memories and helps fight depression.
- Relaxation is key to minimizing stress- try some yoga or meditation.
- Learn new skills that are challenging, like quilting, to keep your brain strong.
- Listen to music to keep your brain stimulated by evoking memories & emotions.
- Keep good oral hygiene.
For more about preventing Alzheimer's, click here.
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If you think you or someone you know may have Alzheimer's, reach out to Alzheimer's Association for help & resources.
If you're interested in helping fund research for Alzhiemer's Disease, please consider purchasing one of our signature pieces from the Support Alzheimer's Research Collection.
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