June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. Everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer’s, a disease that is often misunderstood. Alzheimer’s disease has become one of the largest health care crises in the world. Did you know:
▪ Every 66 seconds someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s disease.
▪ In Missouri, it is the sixth leading cause of death.
▪ It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
▪ Alzheimer’s is not normal aging. It is a progressive brain disease, which appears through a variety of signs and symptoms.
▪ Alzheimer’s disease is the only top-10 cause of death that cannot be prevented or cured.
Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of older age groups. Early-onset Alzheimer’s affects people younger than 65 — many are in their 40s and 50s. About 200,000 people have early onset Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Doctors do not understand why some cases of Alzheimer’s appear at such a young age. However, scientists have pinpointed several rare genes that directly cause Alzheimer’s in a few hundred families worldwide. People who inherit these rare genes tend to develop symptoms in their 30s, 40s and 50s.
Alzheimer’s disease typically progresses slowly in three general stages — mild (early-stage), moderate (middle-stage) and severe (late-stage). Since Alzheimer’s affects people in different ways, each person will experience symptoms – or progress through Alzheimer’s stages – differently. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease worsen over time, although the rate at which the disease progresses varies. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.
The greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s is advanced age. A second factor is a family history of the disease. These important risk factors cannot be changed. However, emerging evidence suggests there may be other factors we can influence.
One of those areas is exercise. Studies have shown exercise can assist in keeping our memory sharp. An overall strategy for healthy aging may help keep the brain healthy and may even reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Overall, healthy aging also includes eating a healthy diet, staying socially active, avoiding tobacco and excess alcohol, and exercising both the body and mind.
This means, according to CDC guidelines, that individuals should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to intensive exercise every week as well as muscle strengthening activities on two or more days a week.
During the last 30 years, researchers have made remarkable progress understanding how a healthy brain functions and what goes wrong because of Alzheimer’s disease. There continues to be worldwide research in trying to find new treatments to stop, slow or even prevent Alzheimer’s from occurring.
For more information: http://www.alz.org
Rodney McBride is the vice president of Health & Community Services for John Knox Village. He also serves as a member of the Lee’s Summit Health Education Advisory Board, a mayor-appointed, volunteer board that promotes and advocates community health by assessing health issues, educating the public and government agencies, developing plans to address health issues, encouraging partnerships and evaluating the outcomes.