"Love Your Brain" During Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month
Did you know that June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month and the start of The Longest Day ®, a DIY fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association? As a granddaughter who has lost her dear grandfather to Alzheimer’s, and as an adult critical care nurse, I am very passionate about spreading awareness for Alzheimer’s, fundraising, and research. I say “as a nurse” because if you are in the same general field of adult nursing care, then you know that a significant portion of our patient population includes the elderly, many who suffer with Alzheimer’s and/or dementia. If you don’t mind, let me run some statistics by you…
- Alzheimer’s is the SIXTH leading cause of death in the United States.
- 5.8 MILLION Americans are living with Alzheimer’s. (By 2050, this number is projected to be close to 14 MILLION.)
- Every 65 SECONDS someone in the United States develops the disease.
- A whopping 82% of seniors say that it’s important to have their thinking/memory checked – but only 16% say they receive regular cognitive assessments.
- Between 2000 and 2017, deaths from heart disease have decreased by 9% WHILE deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased by 145%.
- Alzheimer’s kills more individuals than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
These statistics are shocking! Most individuals focus on preventing chronic conditions from happening to their heart, lungs, and other crucial organs. Many people assume that whether or not one acquires Alzheimer’s or dementia is solely based on their genes and age. Although these factors do have some effect on whether or not an individual might develop Alzheimer’s or dementia, they are not everything. Research is always discovering new information. There is now strong evidence that we still have some control over keeping our brain sharp and working to the fullest capacity. Here are 10 things you can do now to “Love Your Brain”:
- Break a sweat: Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline.
- Hit the books: Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. For example, take a class at a local college, community center, or online.
- Butt out: Evidence shows that smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce that risk to levels comparable to those who have not smoked.
- Follow your heart: Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke (obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes) negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.
- Heads up!: Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear your seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls.
- Fuel up right: Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH may contribute to risk reduction.
- Catch some Zzz’s: Not getting enough sleep due to insomnia or sleep apnea can result in problems with memory and thinking
- Take care of your mental health: Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Also, try to manage stress.
- Buddy up: Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community – if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or help at an after-school program. Or, just share activities with friends and family.
- Stump yourself: Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for you brain.
June 21st, the Summer Solstice is the official day of celebration, due to it being the day with the most light, but fundraising can be anytime from now until August 31st. Events can be anything from a poker night, to a pool party, to a songwriter’s round (which I am currently working on in Nashville, TN!), to a taco night! Whatever you feel is the best way to honor those you love that are living with Alzheimer’s, or have lost to Alzheimer’s, is how we want you to fundraise. Be sure to check out the homepage for The Longest Day here to find out more information, to create your team, and begin fundraising!
Victoria Adamson, BSN, RN, CCRN is a critical care nurse in the process of applying to CRNA school.
2019 ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE FACTS AND FIGURES
10 Ways to Love Your Brain
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