September is World Alzheimer’s Month, a campaign I can’t ignore because it’s personal to me. My husband’s mum died of it not long ago and, forget the jokes, I really got on with my mother-in-law.
Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects millions of us globally and that number is on the rise. It can’t be cured but there are many ways to help prevent it that will also have wider benefits for you.
September 21st is the main day of Alzheimer’s month. And this year, the focus is on education and knowledge. So here are some things to bear in mind.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia. Dementia is the name for a set of symptoms that includes memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia develops when the brain is damaged by diseases, including Alzheimer’s. It physically affects the brain.
Find out more about different types of dementia here https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/types-dementia/alzheimers-disease
Dementia is usually associated with aging. Symptoms develop later in life but the progression of the disease starts years and sometimes decades before symptoms appear.
It begins with negative changes in the brain in midlife and accumulates over time.
But there is a lot of evidence to suggest that our lifestyles – including stress levels, sleep, movement, and diet – are often determining factors, even more so if we have a genetic predisposition to dementia.
Two shocking facts stand out.
First, women are twice as likely as men to develop Alzheimer’s.
Second, women in their 60s are twice as likely to develop it as they are to develop breast cancer.
And the percentage of the population being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is growing rapidly.
Why are women more prone to Alzheimer’s?
Hormones are key to brain aging in women. What happens in midlife to women is that they can develop Alzheimer’s plaques – insoluble protein clumps that kill off neurons in the brain. Dementia brain changes can begin in midlife, triggered by declining oestrogen during perimenopause.
What are some of the changes to look out for?
As well as becoming forgetful and struggling with word retrieval. A person in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s will often also have changes in their mood. They may become anxious, depressed, or more easily annoyed. Many lose interest in talking to other people, or in activities and hobbies. These changes can be challenging for both the person with dementia and those close to them to live with.
What can be done to minimise your risks?
Our brain health is improved by brain exercises, sleep, diet and exercise.
Be aware of your stress levels and find some things that will help you to reduce these, like meditation, yoga or mindfulness.
Nutrition – Mediterranean style diet high in plants, including legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables has been found to improve and maintain a healthy brain.
Exercise – it’s a strong preventative and risk reduction of Alzheimer’s – aim for moderate intensity with positive gains. It might even be as simple as walking up the stairs instead of a lift.
There is a great slogan I have seen a lot lately, ‘make time for your wellness or be forced to take time for your illness.’
Our parting thought… Make time for you and your health every day.