To the Editor:
The month of June is nationally designated as Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month by the Alzheimer’s Association. It is a time to raise awareness about Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. Everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer’s. It kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined. It is also a progressive brain disease without a cure. According to the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures, currently 5.7 million Americans are living with the disease, projected to rise to 14 million by 2050. Every 65 seconds someone in the U.S. develops the disease.
There are lifestyle habits that can be adopted to maintain or potentially improve health. These habits span four categories: physical health and exercise, diet and nutrition, cognitive activity, and social engagement.
- For physical activities, incorporate activity(s) that you enjoy so you will continue to engage in it. Keep your heart healthy to help keep your brain healthy. Many factors that increase the risk of heart disease also may increase the risk of dementia. These factors include smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
- Eating a heart-healthy diet benefits both your body and your brain. In general, this is a diet lower in saturated fats. It points to the benefits of two diets in particular, the DASH diet and the Mediterranean Diet. These diets can reduce heart disease, and may also reduce risk of dementia.
- Mentally challenging activities, such as learning a new skill, adopting a new hobby, or engaging in formal education, may have short and long-term benefits for your brain. Challenge yourself to games of strategy, or high-level reading material, or approach a familiar task in a more effective way.
- Social engagement is associated with reduced rates of disability and mortality, and will support brain health and possibly delay the onset of dementia. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you, such as volunteering. Or it could be as simple as engaging with friends and family on a regular basis.
Congressman Jim Himes is a champion of all Alzheimer’s Disease initiatives and legislation. Please encourage his efforts in Congress to continue to fight the battle against Alzheimer’s Disease.