June marks awareness month for dementia


Today, there are nearly 7 million people aged 65 and older in the United States living with Alzheimer’s dementia, including 236,200 in Ohio. The Alzheimer’s Association is encouraging Ohioans 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 one in five for women and one 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 the 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.

“Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month offers a reminder for everyone to take charge of their brain health,” said Pam Myers, senior director of programs for the Alzheimer’s Association Northwest Ohio and Central Ohio chapters. “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.”

Nationwide, one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. In Ohio, there are 236,200 individuals aged 65 and over living with the disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report.

Those concerned about themselves or a loved one can contact the Alzheimer’s Association Central Ohio Chapter at 614-457-6003 to schedule a care consultation and be connected to local resources. For more information, visit alz.org/abam.

Submitted by the Alzheimer’s Association.

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