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June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

June is recognized as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month across the United States. This month is an opportunity to recognize and work to reduce the unique challenges faced by those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other forms of cognitive decline, as well as a chance to assess your own risk factors and steps you can take now to reduce your risk or delay the onset of brain diseases.

Some of the factors that increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease are out of our control, such as age and family history. Emerging research, however, suggests that lifestyle and environmental factors can impact risk for developing brain diseases, and these factors are more manageable on a personal and individual level.

  1. Take care of your physical health. Staying up to date on physical examinations, avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, and prioritizing sleep (7-8 hours nightly) can all help reduce dementia risk factors. Research also suggests a strong link between heart health and brain health. By managing your blood pressure, eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains, and trying to fit in regular physical exercise for heart health, you’ll also reduce your risk for cognitive decline.
  2. Prioritize intellectual stimulation. Find time to read, play games, volunteer, take classes, or pick up a new hobby. While there is no definitive evidence such engagement has a lasting impact on cognitive function, observational data does point to mental stimulation as a way to help reduce risk and rate of cognitive decline. Plus, such activities often provide an opportunity for social engagement and community-building, which has been shown to improve longevity, and is associated with lower risk for dementia. With your Aging at Home Association membership you can take advantage of discounted access to Elli-Q, a digital care companion helping seniors stay mentally and physically engaged at home.
  3. Manage your stress. While some stress is unavoidable and, at time necessary, chronic stress has been shown to impact brain health and adversely affect memory. Prioritizing time in nature, journaling, meditation or mindfulness, and making time for small joys such as enjoying your morning coffee or taking a daily walk can all help reduce stress and lead to a longer, happier life with improved memory and mental state.

These steps can help extend your life and improve your memory.  In addition, you should make sure you’re talking with your doctor about concerns you have regarding your brain health. Schedule your annual check-up and touch base on any concerns you have about your memory or physical function. For those who are already managing cognitive decline for yourself or a loved one, check out Wellthy’s services, discounted with your Aging at Home Association membership, for help finding quality memory care in your area. If you’re looking to get involved in the fight against Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association has a number of educational resources, as well as opportunities to get involved in fundraising efforts for research and access to treatment for those living with this disease.