This November, Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America wants everyone to know: Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging, early detection matters (get memory screenings), and lifestyle choices can reduce risk.
Alzheimer’s disease currently affects more than 5.8 million Americans, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that number will grow to 14 million by 2060.
“Today, almost everyone knows someone who has been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, but not everyone understands what it is or what they can do about it,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s President & CEO. “Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is an empowering reminder to take better care of our own health, and brain, and to get memory screenings, just as regularly, and importantly, as we do blood pressure and cholesterol checkups.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder, characterized by plagues and tangles in brain tissue, that impacts memory, thinking and language skills, and the ability to carry out simple tasks. If you experience any of these common symptoms below, seek out a memory screening:
• Frequent memory loss that impacts your ability to function in daily life
• Becoming disoriented to time, place, and the immediate environment
• Struggling to complete familiar tasks, such as brushing your teeth
• Trouble following or initiating a conversation
• Repeatedly putting items in locations they don’t belong (e.g., car keys in the freezer)
• Changes in mood and personality
Early detection matters, and AFA officials said memory screenings are an important first step toward early detection of memory issues. Screenings are simple, quick, and noninvasive, consisting of a series of questions to gauge memory, language, thinking skills and other intellectual functions. AFA provides free, virtual memory screenings every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nationwide. Contact AFA at 866-232-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org to learn more or to schedule an appointment.
People experiencing memory loss or cognitive decline may be reluctant, embarrassed or in denial about seeking help, but early detection of memory issues affords greater opportunities to begin medications sooner to slow the progression of disease symptoms, participate in a clinical trial, take advantage of therapeutic programming, and have an active role in developing your care, health, legal and financial plans.
Just as important, not all memory issues are caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, urinary tract infections, sleep apnea, and depression are examples of conditions that can cause memory impairments — and all are treatable or curable — but you can’t address them if you aren’t aware that they exist.
Healthy lifestyle choices can reduce your Alzheimer’s risk. Adopt a low-fat, heart-healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables and limit intake of red meats, fried and processed foods, salt and sugar; stay physically active (exercise increases blood and oxygen flow to the body and the brain); be socially engaged (volunteer, see friends and family); get quality sleep, 7-9 hours a night (studies suggest that sleep plays a role in clearing metabolic waste out of the brain); reduce stress (it can cause brain inflammation); continue learning (take up dancing, learn a new language, read more); avoid smoking, and limit alcohol consumption.
Don’t deal with Alzheimer’s alone. Whether you have Alzheimer’s, are a family caregiver, or have a loved one in your life with the disease, you can connect with support, answers, and local resources through AFA’s Helpline (866-232-8484), and web chat, available in 90+ languages at www.alzfdn.org.