By Madison Vincent
June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month and the Alzheimer’s Association needs your help to raise awareness of this disease by going purple, sharing the facts, and getting involved in the fight to end Alzheimer’s.
Who can develop Alzheimer’s disease?
Everyone who has a brain is at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a fatal disease that is often misunderstood. More than 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s, including 110,000 in Tennessee.
The Alzheimer’s Association wants to take this month to educate you about this fatal disease. There are many misconceptions and questions about Alzheimer’s, and we want to share our resources with you through educational workshops, presentations, and more. An important thing to know is that though some cognitive decline is a normal part of aging, Alzheimer’s disease is not and it can appear in many different ways and symptoms.
10 Warning Signs
1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
One of the most common signs of Alzheimer’s is memory loss, especially forgetting recently learned information. Others include forgetting important dates or events; asking for the same information over and over; increasingly needing to rely on memory aids or family members for things they used to handle on their own.
2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
Some people may experience changes in their ability to develop and follow a plan or work with numbers. They may have trouble following a familiar recipe or keeping track of monthly bills. They may have difficulty concentrating and take much longer to do things than they did before.
3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
People with Alzheimer’s often find it hard to complete daily tasks. Sometimes, people may have trouble driving to a familiar location, managing a budget at work or remembering the rules of a favorite game
4. Confusion with time or place
People with Alzheimer’s can lose track of dates, seasons and the passage of time. They may have trouble understanding something if it is not happening immediately. Sometimes they may forget where they are or how they got there.
5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
For some people, having vision problems is a sign of Alzheimer’s. They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color or contrast, which may cause problems with driving.
6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
People with Alzheimer’s may have trouble following or joining a conversation. They may stop in the middle of a conversation and have no idea how to continue or they may repeat themselves. They may struggle with vocabulary, have problems finding the right word or call things by the wrong name (e.g., calling a “watch” a “hand-clock”).
7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
A person with Alzheimer’s disease may put things in unusual places. They may lose things and be unable to go back over their steps to find them again. Sometimes, they may accuse others of stealing. This may occur more frequently over time.
8. Decreased or poor judgment
People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in judgment or decision-making. For example, they may use poor judgment when dealing with money, giving large amounts to telemarketers. They may pay less attention to grooming or keeping themselves clean.
9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
A person with Alzheimer’s may start to remove themselves from hobbies, social activities, work projects or sports. They may have trouble keeping up with a favorite sports team or remembering how to complete a favorite hobby. They may also avoid being social because of the changes they have experienced.
10. Changes in mood and personality
The mood and personalities of people with Alzheimer’s can change. They can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. They may be easily upset at home, at work, with friends or in places where they are out of their comfort zone.
These 10 Warning Signs help to identify changes in cognitive ability early leading to early detection. Although, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s; early detection, diagnosis and intervention is vital and can lead to the best opportunities for care, support, treatment and planning for the future. If you or someone you know are experiencing any of the 10 Warning Signs, please see a doctor. You can find out more about the Alzheimer’s Association at alz.org or by calling 1.800.272.3900 which will direct you to the local office during business hours.
How to reduce risk of cognitive decline: 10 Ways to love your brain
While there is currently no way to cure, prevent or even slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, there are steps you can take to keep your brain healthy and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. During Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month the Alzheimer’s Association shares 10 ways to love your brain.
1. Hit the books
Formal education will help reduce risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Take a class at a local college, community center, or online.
2. Butt out
Smoking increases risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce risk.
3. Follow your heart
Risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke-obesity, blood pressure and diabetes- negatively impact your cognitive health.
4. Heads up!
Brain injury can raise risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seatbelt and use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike.
5. Fuel up right
Eat a balanced diet that is higher in vegetables and fruit to reduce risk.
6. Catch some ZZZ’s
Not getting enough sleep may result in problems with memory and thinking.
7. Take care of your mental health
Some studies link depression with cognitive decline, so seek treatment if you have depression, anxiety, or stress.
8. 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.
9. Stump yourself
Challenge your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Play games of strategy.
10. Break a sweat
Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow. Studies have found that physical activity reduces the risk of cognitive decline.
Get involved and go purple
Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month is also a chance to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease. To raise awareness, the Alzheimer’s Association is asking the community to join us in going purple! You can go purple by: wearing purple to work, turning your office purple, using social media or hosting a purple with a purpose event at your office.
Join us for Paint the Town Purple Gala at The Martha Washington Inn on June 23 as we raise awareness of Alzheimer’s. For tickets and more information call 423.928.4080.
The Longest Day is also an opportunity to get involved while doing what you love. The Longest Day is June 20 and is a team-driven event where teams put their passion to good work and participate in a favorite activity from sunrise to sunset to honor loved ones living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. To register and learn more visit alz.org/thelongestday.
Every 66 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association is here to help and can provide invaluable information and resources on how to plan for the future and provide the best care possible. For a list of upcoming educational events in the area, visit our website alz.org/altn. If you or a loved one is experiencing memory loss or would like to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease please contact the local Alzheimer’s Association by calling our toll-free number at 1.800.272.3900.