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November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recognizes the month of November as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. The purpose of this month is to spread awareness about the disease and information about prevention, support networks, and educational resources for caretakers.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, chronic medical condition that affects approximately 6.5 million people in the United States. It involves parts of the brain that control memory, decision-making, language, and mood.

“The projected number of adults age 65+, with Alzheimer’s dementia in Nebraska, will reach 40,000 in 2025,” said Cynthia Brammeier, an Administrator II with the State Unit on Aging. “Most people are aging in their homes with the help of family caregivers. Caregiver programs can provide much-needed respite and support for those caring for a loved one with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Agencies on Aging throughout Nebraska and the Alzheimer’s Association have programs that offer support for both families and caregivers.”

There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s:

Manage high blood pressure: Living a healthy lifestyle can help you keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. Try choosing healthy meal and snack options and avoiding options that have a high sodium content.

Manage blood sugar: Regular exercise can help keep your blood sugar levels on track. Try eating at regular times without skipping meals and drinking water instead of juice or soda.

Maintain a healthy weight: Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight includes healthy eating, physical activity, optimal sleep, and stress reduction.

Be physically active: Regular physical activity can lead to better sleep, reduces stress/anxiety, and lowers blood pressure. Start with activities you enjoy. Federal guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week for adults.

Quit smoking: Quitting smoking can improve your overall health and reduce your risk for many smoking-related illnesses. There are a handful of resources available to you for help with quitting smoking.

Avoid excessive drinking: Excessive drinking has immediate effects that can increase the risk of many health conditions but can also lead to long-term health risks that can cause other serious health problems.

Prevent and correct hearing loss: Hearing loss can have a profound impact on the quality of day-to-day life. Try reducing your time in noisy areas, wear hearing protection such as foam plugs, and keep the volume of music at a safe level.

Get enough sleep: Getting the correct amount of good quality sleep is important for people of all ages. Try removing electronic devices from the bedroom and creating a quiet, dark, relaxing, and comfortable bedroom.

If it seems overwhelming to make multiple changes at once, try making gradual changes. For example, start with dedicating 30 minutes a night to reading or doing a crossword puzzle, plan on getting an extra 30 minutes of sleep at night, schedule an annual physical exam with your general physician, or simply start taking a short walk every day. These subtle lifestyle changes can make a big difference to your overall health as well as your cognitive health.

For information about resources for individuals in Nebraska with Alzheimer’s, please click here.

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