November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness month. My hope is that you will take a few minutes to read further to have a better understanding of the disease. I’ll also share about the “heart-head connection” and a list of resources that might be helpful for caregivers of someone impacted by the disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is the 5th leading cause of death for adults 65 and older and 6th leading cause of death for all adults in the United States (CDC, 2021). This disease impacts approximately 12.7% of Florida adults ages 65 and older in a single year (Florida Charts, 2020). That’s 572,997 individuals. In St. Johns County, it reaches 11.4% of the same population which is 6,256 lives (Florida Charts-Probable Alzheimer’s cases, 2020). This disease not only impacts 65 and older, “approximately 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Association, 2020).
Alzheimer’s disease does not just impact the person with the disease, it affects the entire family. In Florida alone, there are 527,000 caregivers of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease (Alzheimer’s Association, 2021).
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that impacts an individuals’ memory or other cognitive abilities as well as behavior. It is a progressive disease without a cure.
As age increases, so does our risk for Alzheimer’s disease; however, just because we get older does not mean we will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Having a parent or sibling with the disease may increase your risk. There are also two genes identified that have an impact on developing the disease (deterministic and risk genes). Other risk factors include previous head injuries and overall health and wellness behaviors.
While you don’t have control over all of the risk factors, there are things you can do to promote healthy aging, such as staying socially connected, avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol, exercising both your body and mind, and of course, a healthy diet. This is where the “heart-head connection” comes in. When you practice heart healthy living, it’s also brain/head healthy, too! If you’d like to learn more about a heart healthy diet, check out these tips from the American Heart Association.
Below you’ll find a list of links and resources to build awareness of the disease, as well as caregiver resources. If you are not directly impacted by this disease, maybe you know someone who is living with Alzheimer’s or is a caregiver. I encourage you to share today’s message. You never know when it might be the moment when they needed it most.
Health Challenge: Choose at least one activity each day to stimulate your brain. The Cleveland Clinic has a webpage with a ton of mind activities: Cranium Corner which includes Sudoku, Crosswords and Word searches to name a few.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Caring for Yourself When Caring for Another
National Institute on Aging
Home Safety Checklist for Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s Caregiving – reviews changes in behavior and communication, everyday care, caregiver health, legal and financial Issues, relationships, and safety.
How Alzheimer’s Changes the Brain (4-min video)
Healthy Aging and Caregiving e-alerts – sign up
University of Florida/IFAS Extension
Diet and Brain Health
Adapted and updated from an original post, Wellness with Wendy e-news (November 4, 2020).
Author: Wendy W. Lynch