The Creation of the Alzheimer’s Association
In 1980, the Alzheimer’s Association was founded by individuals and family caregivers who recognized the need for advocacy and research to fight the disease. President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in 1983. At the time, fewer than 2 million Americans had been diagnosed with the disease. In 1994, Reagan announced he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and that same year the Alzheimer’s Disease International organization declared World Alzheimer’s Day to be celebrated in September.
Celebrating Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: The Purple Campaign
47 million people now live with Alzheimer’s and other dementias world-wide. The Alzheimer’s Association has risen to be the leading voluntary health organization focused on Alzheimer’s research, care and support. June has been designated by the Alzheimer’s Association as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month with a world-wide campaign utilizing the color purple to promote awareness of the disease, as well as to raise funds for research and a cure.
In June, thousands of Americans will turn their Facebook profiles purple with an “END ALZ” icon to further increase awarenss of the disease.
What is Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease?
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. Dementia is caused by damage to the brain cells, and Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive brain disorder that accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. It is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
Researchers have discovered that plaques, protein fragments and tangles are present in the brain of an Alzheimer’s sufferer which causes a lack of connections among brain cells. Eventually the brain cells die and sadly, the disease is fatal.
Vascular Dementia, caused by stroke, is the second most common form of dementia. Dementia can also be caused by thyroid conditions, side effects of medication, depression or excessive alcohol consumption, and in these cases, some brain damage may be reversible.
Risk Factors and Symptoms of Dementia
Some of the main risk factors for dementia include age, which rises to 50% over the age of 85, family history and genetics. Researchers have identified two genetic risk factors that increase one’s risk but does not guarantee that the disease will manifest. The Alzheimer’s Association “Alzheimer’s Project” Genetics in Alzheimer’s video explores genes effects and risks related to dementia.
Early symptoms of dementia can include difficulties with short term memory, mood changes, confusion, and difficulty speaking. As a progressive disease, the symptoms will gradually worsen over time.
While some age-related changes in memory, behavior or physical abilities are considered normal, memory loss and behavioral changes that disrupt daily living are not a normal part of the aging process. If you have any concerns for yourself or a loved one, review the Alzheimer’s Association pamphlet, 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Latest in Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment
Most of what we now know about Alzheimer’s has been discovered in the past 20 years. There is still much more to learn, and currently there is no cure. New medications are now on the market that can treat the symptoms and in some cases, delay the progression of the symptoms of the disease. The Alzheimer’s Association has a roundup of the current available medications and treatments.
The Mediterranean Diet is high in monounsaturated fatty acids like those found in olive oil, omega 3 fatty acids found in fish and nuts, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Along with protecting against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, the Mediterranean Diet may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
The Dash Diet developed by the National Institute of Health, and a combination of the two diets developed by Dr. Martha Clare Morris from Rush University may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
Interesting information on diet and dementia can be found by visiting the online publication, Cognitive Vitality, by the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation in an article titled, Three Promising Diets To Improve Cognitive Vitality.
Moderate aerobic exercise may improve memory in seniors and stave off dementia symptoms. In a study conducted by an epidemiologist on a National Public Radio article, it is noted that Bryan James at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago conducted brains scans of 120 older adults. Half of the subjects engaged in 45 minutes of exercise (mostly walking), three to four times a week, and half were sedentary. At the conclusion of one year scans showed that brain volume increased for the active adults.
A Mayo Clinic publication, Physical Exercise as a Preventive or Disease-Modifying Treatment of Dementia and Brain Aging notes “A rapidly growing literature strongly suggests that exercise, specifically aerobic exercise, may attenuate cognitive impairment and reduce dementia risk.”
A compelling argument for the benefits of exercise and its preventative effect on dementia can also be found at the online publication Cognitive Vitality by the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, Fit Body Fit Mind.
New studies show exciting news about caffeine and its effect on dementia prevention. Noted In an article resourced at the National Center for Biotechnology Information,”…most studies (3 out of 5) support coffee’s favorable effects against cognitive decline, dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. In addition, two studies had combined coffee and tea drinking and indicated some positive effects on cognitive functioning. … In the CAIDE Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia study, coffee drinking of 3-5 cups per day at midlife was associated with a decreased risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease by about 65% at late-life. In conclusion, coffee drinking may be associated with a decreased risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease.” The consumption of caffeine may have detrimental effects on other health risks, though, so check with your doctor on how it may affect you.
The Cannabis Debate
According to Alzheimer’s.net, “A preclinical study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a chemical found in marijuana, can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins, thought to be a hallmark characteristic and key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer’s.”
While medical marijuana is legal in a number of states, it remains an illegal substance on federal legislation, which supersedes state law. While the Food and Drug Administration has approved two medical marijuana medications in pill form to treat nausea caused by chemotherapy and AIDS patients, the medical community has divergent views on the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for any disease. The legality of medical utilization of marijuana continues to be unclear.
For informational purposes only. Green Hill Inc. does not encourage the breaking of any state or federal regulations.
Supportive Memory Care at Green Hill
Green Hill provides a continuum of senior living services for aging individuals including those with memory impairment. To support memory care, Green Hill provides assistance with medication administration, three nutritious meals daily, wellness program with a fitness center, and Club Connect – memory activities and programming with a recreation therapist in our Assisting Living residence.
Get Involved in Finding a Cure for Alzheimer’s
Join Green Hill Inc. on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Essex-Hudson-Union on Saturday September 23, 2017. Click here to register.
Or, visit the Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month Go Purple Campaign \ to find additional ways to participate in Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month.