June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.
Worldwide, there are an estimated 47 million people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and without a change, these numbers are expected to grow to 76 million by 2030. Alzheimer’s is a fatal disease that kills nerve cells and tissue in the brain, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think and plan. Ultimately, those with the disease will lose their ability to communicate, recognize family and friends, and care for themselves. As we age, most of us become a bit forgetful and start to worry that we may have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
|Normal Aging||Alzheimer’s Disease|
|Making a bad decision once in a while||Making poor judgments and decisions a lot of the time|
|Missing a monthly payment||Problems taking care of monthly bills|
|Forgetting which day it is and remembering it later||Losing track of the date or time of year|
|Sometimes forgetting which word to use||Trouble having a conversation|
|Losing things from time to time||Misplacing things often and being unable to find them|
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for approximately two-thirds of all cases. Vascular dementia and mixed dementia (vascular dementia plus Alzheimer’s disease) account for another quarter. Other, less common types include Lewy body dementia and frontotemporal degeneration (FTD). In every one of these diseases, dementia is caused by neurodegeneration, which is the death of brain cells.
If you notice worsening cognitive function such as memory lapses, a change in personality, or a decline in daily function not attributed to a physical condition in yourself or a loved one, see a doctor. In some cases, you could catch a treatable condition early and protect your brain from harm.
If the condition is due to Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, or another type of dementia, you still have options. More research is pointing to the effectiveness of lifestyle changes, such as exercise, in slowing down Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, and there are many clinical trials of potential new drugs for Alzheimer’s and related dementias that desperately need volunteers.
There are ways to decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s or other dementia:
HIT THE BOOKS: Formal education will help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Take a class at a local college, community center or online.
BREAK A SWEAT: Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates heart rate and increases blood flow. Studies have found that physical activity reduces the risk of cognitive decline.
BUDDY UP: Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Find ways to be part of your local community or share activities with friends and family.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH: Some studies link depression with cognitive decline, so seek treatment if you have depression, anxiety or stress.
CATCH SOME ZZZ’S: Not getting enough sleep may result in problems with memory and thinking.
FUEL UP RIGHT: Eat a balanced diet that is higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
HEADS UP! Brain injury can raise the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt and use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike.
FOLLOW YOUR HEART: Risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke – obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes – negatively impact your cognitive health.
BUTT OUT: Smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
Have you ever thought about how Jesus started off with only twelve followers? Yet he turned the world upside down. Think about what we can do! We will be welcoming our new pastor and family very soon. Our last several months may have felt like a whirlwind of change to many and I have heard words of discouragement from some. If our church never changes, it (we) will become stagnant. Church, while a place of comfort, was never meant to be comfortable. My prayer is that we will welcome our new pastor with open hearts, open minds, and open doors.
Christy Friedel, Parish Nurse, Spiritual Director