With more than 50 million people in the world (and 400,000 Texans) already living with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia, Family Healthcare Associates wants to take a moment during “Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month” to help our patients understand more about these diseases. With more and more Baby Boomers becoming senior citizens in the coming years, cases of Alzheimer’s disease could increase 178% by 2060, according to CDC reports, so the faster you are diagnosed the better. While there’s currently no cure, the good news is symptoms can be managed through the use of medication and behavioral strategies.

You may be curious to know what is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia? Great question, Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disease that causes a decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. Often seen in older adults, it’s the most common type of “dementia,” which is a general term that describes a host of symptoms related to brain degeneration. Both Alzheimer’s and dementia afflict a wide range of individuals no matter race, gender, or even age, as celebrities like Glen Campbell, Rita Hayworth, and Robin Williams were diagnosed with some form of early dementia while they were still relatively young.

While some slowing in the speed of memory occurs as you age, difficulty with normal daily life is not normal, so here is a list of warning signs provided by the Alzheimer’s Association.

  • Changes in mood or personality
  • Trouble speaking
  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in problem solving
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks 
  • Confusing time or place
  • Trouble with spatial relationships
  • Misplacing things, or inability to retrace steps
  • Decreased judgment
  • Withdrawing from social activities

If you notice these symptoms with yourself or someone your love, schedule an appointment with one of our physicians to determine if it’s simply due to natural aging, or they are signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. You may also take the SAGE screening test for Alzheimer’s and Dementia online.

No matter your age, there are several actions you can take to improve brain health. Here are eight tips to keep your brain sharp.

  1. Get your sleep—A third of American adults suffer from insomnia or sleep apnea, which can lead to cognitive problems.
  • Stay social—Even retired adults should stay socially active. Look for groups in your community to keep your brain engaged
  • Exercise regularlyElevate your heart rate and increase the blood flow to your brain to reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
  • Keep your mind activeStay curious in all stages of life. Go back to school, read a book, play a strategy game, or do something artistic.
  • Stop smoking and limit alcohol—Doing both will reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
  • Protect your head—Wear a seatbelt or a helmet whenever they are required. Preventing falls can limit your risk of brain injury and dementia.
  • Power your mind—Eat a healthy diet that’s low in fat and high in vegetables and fruit to keep your brain healthy.
  • Don’t ignore your mental health—Mental health problems can increase your risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have any issues.

We still have a long way to go to spread awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia, so Family Healthcare Associates encourages all of our patients to do their part and help us detect it early, so we can maximize our quality of care and support for yourself, or your loved one. To learn more visit the Alzheimer’s Association website.