Guest Article By Jim Herlihy, Marketing & Communications Director
This June, during Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, join the Alzheimer’s Association® to help raise awareness of this devastating disease. You can start by learning and sharing 10 Ways to Love your Brain.
“Research is still evolving, but evidence is strong that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by making key lifestyle changes,” said Amelia Schafer, executive director of the Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. “Based on this research, we have developed 10 Ways to Love Your Brain, a collection of tips that can reduce the risk of cognitive decline.”
When possible, combine habits from this list to achieve maximum benefit for the brain and body:
- 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 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 and diabetes – negatively impact your cognitive health. Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow.
- Heads up: Brain injury can raise risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a 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 (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to risk reduction.
- Catch some ZZZ’s: Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may 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.
- 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 your brain.
- 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 afterschool program. Or, just share activities with friends and family.
It’s never too late or too early to start thinking about your brain’s health – making healthy choices at any age is beneficial. Visit alz.org/10ways to learn more.
Seek Alzheimer’s Resources at Prowers Medical Center
In the Lamar community, Prowers Medical Center is a major host of Alzheimer’s events and services and an integral collaborator with the Alzheimer’s Association, according to Ann Carter, Regional Director of Southern Colorado for the Alzheimer’s Association Colorado Chapter.
By offering a range of Alzheimer’s services over the last four years, ranging from legal and financial classes for patients’ families to general public classes on Alzheimer’s and dementia, the community has had access to the tools and resources they need when dealing with this disease.
“When you look at Southern Colorado, Lamar is like many communities — you have a certain level of resources, but not the same amount as cities like Pueblo, Colorado Springs or Denver,” Carter said. “But that doesn’t mean the need is not there.”
Carter said there are still many families in Lamar that deal with the tragedy of Alzheimer’s and need the support, which is why it’s so significant that Prowers Medical Center offers these services to the community.
From 11 a.m. to noon on the third Thursday of every month, an Alzheimer’s support group for caregivers meets at Prowers Medical Center.
“At least once a month, caregivers can come in and talk to peers that understand exactly what they’re going through,” Carter said. “That face-to-face interaction is a great opportunity to vent those hard feelings, get tips and advice and not feel so alone. That’s something that, in my opinion, can’t be done online or over the phone.”
If you are interested in meeting with this group, call Carter in advance at 719-372-5983 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To reach the Alzheimer’s Association’s 24/7 support line, call 800-272-3900.