We all can be absent minded now and then but as we age this can actually be signs of a much larger problem. It is estimated that 5.8 million Americans age 65 and older live with Alzheimer’s dementia and 80 percent are age 75 or older.
World Alzheimer’s Month is held by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) every September to educate, raise awareness and fight the stigma that surrounds dementia. The hope is that the more people understand this very serious issue, the more tools people have to deal with their mental health, their loved ones’ condition and employ people with strategies to prevent and slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible disease that destroys brain cells, causing memory and thinking ability to degrade over time. While it is most common in people over the age of 65, it is not a normal part of aging. First identified by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906 the disease manifests in the brain as “plaques,” spread across portions of the brain causing the death of brain cells.
Doctor Alzheimer also described the discovery of what he described as tangles in the brain, which interfere in important cognitive processes, overpowering brain cells to the point of destruction. This disease is a very difficult process to witness for patients and their loved ones. Dementia starts slowly and as it progresses, simple everyday tasks like driving a car, cooking a meal or brushing your teeth become impossible to execute. Even more heartbreaking is the slow degrading of memory, as overtime patients cannot consistently remember family members and friends.
Ways to Combat Alzheimer’s Disease
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are ways to prevent or slow the onset of this disease. The sooner you recognize its presence the more of a chance you have of prolonging your memory and delaying the disease’s progress.
One aspect that greatly impacts brain health is monitoring your cardiovascular health. The brain relies on a regular supply of blood to remain healthy. Prioritizing eating a healthy diet, avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol use and maintaining regular exercise for at least 150 minutes weekly can help keep your heart and blood pressure healthy while also reducing your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Make sure to monitor your blood pressure regularly to make sure it is at a healthy level and if you have diabetes, make sure to take medication and keep a diabetes safe diet to protect your complete body health.
The Importance of Mental Health
Your mental health and physical health are directly connected to one another and this is definitely the case in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Depression, social isolation and a sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to the development of dementia.
It is important to keep your brain active and challenged. Like a muscle, if you don’t stimulate your brain it can atrophy and shrink, raising the likeliness of dementia significantly. It is important to constantly keep learning and challenging your mind. Read as much as you can, try learning a foreign language, volunteer for community events and don’t be afraid to try new hobbies. The more engaged you are in life the more of a chance you have of preventing Alzheimer’s from developing.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Hearing Loss
The important thing to understand is that hearing loss can cause many of the mental health factors, which raise your risk of dementia. One in three seniors over the age of 65 have serious hearing loss and that number rises to 1 in 2 of seniors over 75.
When you can’t hear what the people in your life are saying it is common for people to drop out of social situations. This can lead to depression, self-isolation and less mobile ability as it becomes a challenge to navigate a world with less sound information.
Studies have found that for seniors with mild hearing loss the risk of developing dementia is twice as likely as for those with healthy hearing. The risk rises to 5 fold for those with severe hearing loss.
The good news is that hearing aids can help you hear the sounds you may be missing. If you suspect you are dealing with hearing loss, don’t let it progress. Visit us for a hearing test today. The fight against Alzheimer’s begins with you!