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June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month; Alzheimer’s Association offers tips for brain health and building healthy habits

West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Today, there are nearly 7 million people aged 65 and older in the U.S. living with Alzheimer’s dementia, including 38,100 in West Virginia. The Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging West Virginians to think about their brain health and the benefits of building healthy brain habits during Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in June.

The lifetime risk for the disease at age 45 is 1 in 5 for women and 1 in 10 for men. The brain changes that cause Alzheimer’s are thought to begin 20 years or more before symptoms start, which suggests that there may be a substantial window of time in which we can intervene in the progression of the disease.

Experts believe there isn’t a single cause of Alzheimer’s, and it’s likely the disease develops as a result of multiple factors. The greatest known risk factor is advancing age. Although some risk factors, like age, cannot be changed, others may be modified to reduce risk – it is estimated that addressing modifiable risk factors might prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers these suggestions for taking charge of your brain health:

1. Incorporate healthy habits that may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. The Alzheimer’s Association encourages individuals to incorporate 10 Healthy Habits to reduce the risk of cognitive decline. It’s never too early to take charge of your brain.

2. Recognize the early warning signs. Many people equate Alzheimer’s with memory loss, and while that is one of the most common signs, there are other signs of cognitive decline, including altered judgment, mood changes, challenges in decision-making, and carrying out projects. Some memory changes can be a normal part of aging, but when changes start to interfere with daily living or stray drastically from a person’s normal behavior, it’s best to get it checked. Find the 10 signs at alz.org/10signs.

3. Proactively address memory and thinking problems. Many individuals experiencing memory and thinking problems often put off discussing them with a doctor. A 2022 Alzheimer’s Association report found that 60% of U.S. adults say they would not see a doctor right away if they were experiencing symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. Rather, they would wait until symptoms worsened or until family and friends expressed concern.

Early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and dementia offer the best opportunity for care, management and treatment. It also provides individuals more time to plan for the future, participate in clinical trials and live a higher quality of life.There are now treatments that may slow disease progression in early stages, making a timely diagnosis critically important. 

4. Help accelerate disease-related research. Clinical trials hold the key to treatment. Individuals living with the disease, caregivers and healthy volunteers are needed for clinical trials that help advance research. Today, 55,000 volunteers are needed for 180 clinical trials. TrialMatch® is a free, easy-to-use service that connects individuals with appropriate trials.

5. Volunteer. According to research presented at the 2023 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, volunteering is associated with improved cognitive function. Volunteers make an impact on the lives of people facing Alzheimer’s, and are passionate people who work to fight this devastating disease, honor loved ones, and bring care and support to those who need it. To learn more about volunteer opportunities in your community, email [email protected] or call the Alzheimer’s Association Charleston office at 304.343.2717.

“Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month offers a reminder for everyone to take charge of their brain health,” said Sharon M. Covert, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter. “There are steps everyone can take to reduce their risk of cognitive decline, and we want to encourage anyone experiencing memory or thinking problems to talk to their doctor.There are many possible causes, and if it is Alzheimer’s, there are numerous benefits to getting an early diagnosis.”

An estimated 6.9 million Americans aged 65 and older have Alzheimer’s dementia, including 38,100 in West Virginia. One in three seniors dies with the disease – more than breast and prostate cancer combined. West Virginia’s mortality rate of 47.7% from Alzheimer’s is significantly higher than the national mortality rate of 36%.

Those concerned about themselves or a loved one can contact the Alzheimer’s Association West Virginia Chapter at 304.343.2717 to schedule a care consultation and be connected to local resources. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Helpline can be reached 24/7 at 800.272.3900. For more information, visit alz.org/abam

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