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June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

Monday, June 05, 2023

Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month. Elderly woman looking off o the side.Close to one in nine people age 65 and older in the U.S. lives with Alzheimer’s disease, nearly two-thirds of them women. Alzheimer’s is a progressive, irreversible brain disorder that destroys memory and thinking skills. As the population ages, the number of affected seniors is expected to increase from 6.7 million in 2023 to nearly 12.7 million by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Alzheimer’s Association sponsors Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month to raise awareness of the disease and support for a cure. Throughout June, learn the signs of the disease, and ways to help a loved one who has it and people who are caring for someone with it. 

What is Alzheimer’s disease?An image of plaque in the brain

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and is ranked the seventh leading cause of death in the nation. It is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer, who in 1906 found abnormal clumps and tangled bundles of fibers in the brain of a woman who suffered memory loss, unpredictable behavior and problems using language before dying, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIH).

Those clumps he found are amyloid plaques and the tangled fibers tau tangles. They are two key features of the disease, along with lost connections between brain nerve cells. In people with Alzheimer’s disease, deposits of proteins form amyloid plaques and tau tangles throughout the brain. Neurons stop functioning and die.

What causes Alzheimer’s Disease?

That is not fully understood, but it’s believed that several factors are involved:

  • Age is the best known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease
  • Gender: women account for two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s
  • Genetics likely plays a role
  • Evidence suggests risk factors for heart disease and stroke, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, may increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease
  • Serious head injuries are linked to future risk of Alzheimer’s
Is there a cure?

Not yet, but there are treatments to slow memory loss and improve people’s quality of life. An early diagnosis may allow for more effective treatment. It also can help in maintaining healthy relationships between the person with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones because the cause of new behaviors is understood.

How would I recognize Alzheimer’s in myself or a loved one?

The NIH provides a list of early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. Confusion about time or place
  5. Trouble with spacial relationships
  6. Problems with using words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things, and not being able to retrace their steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgement
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood or personality
How is Alzheimer’s treated?

No medications can reverse Alzheimer’s, but some can slow the progression of symptoms. Medicines and other treatments also are used to treat behavioral symptoms of the disease: sleeplessness, wandering, agitation, anxiety, aggression, restlessness and depression, according to the NIH. Scientists are developing and testing interventions to address the disease itself.

How can people prevent developing Alzheimer’s?

Research shows that a healthy lifestyle supports brain health and may help prevent Alzheimer’s. Here are recommendations from the NIH and the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Exercise regularly, which increases blood and oxygen flow to the brainOlder man perusing books.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetable and whole grains, and limits sugar and saturated fats
  • Spend time with family and friends
  • Keep your mind active
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Manage chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • “Fall-proof” your home and wear seatbelts to reduce the risk of head injuries
  • Don’t smoke
  • Limit alcohol consumption

NewBridge Services connects seniors and their families with support services through NewBridge SAIL (Senior Assistance for Independent Living), a free program for Morris County residents age 60 and over. NewBridge SAIL also links seniors with community services, such as bill-paying assistance and Meals on Wheels, to keep them as independent as possible. If you or someone you know needs help, visit NewBridge at newbridge.org or call (973) 316-9333.

NewBridge offers Tame The Pain: Opioid-Free Pain Management for Older Adults, a free program for individuals and groups for adults age 60 and up in Morris County. Participants will learn about the risks of prescription painkillers, and the array of evidence-based pain management options that don’t involve addictive opioids.While workshops are open to people of all ages, they are geared for seniors and their caregivers, families, and service providers. For more information, contact NewBridge Director of Community Response and Education Beth Jacobson at ejacobson@newbridge.org or (973) 686-2242.

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