September marks World Alzheimer’s Month (#WorldAlzMonth), an international campaign to raise dementia awareness and challenge stigma. Each year, Alzheimer associations from around the world unite to organize advocacy and information provision events, as well as Memory Walks and fundraising days. In the U.S., the Alzheimer’s Association is a key participant.
World Alzheimer’s Month is coordinated by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), the umbrella organization of Alzheimer associations around the world. According to the organization, the impact of this campaign is growing, but the stigmatization and misinformation that surrounds dementia remain a global issue.
The theme for this year’s campaign is “Let’s talk about dementia: End the stigma.” (#LetsTalkAboutDementia). They’re encouraging people all around the world to understand the importance of recognizing dementia as a disease and challenging the stigma that surrounds the condition.
We’ve all heard the data and perhaps become numb to it, but the statistics bear repeating:
There are over 50 million people around the world living with dementia.
Someone in the world develops dementia every 3 seconds.
The number of people living with dementia is predicted to triple, rising to 152 million by 2050.
The economic burden of dementia is $1 trillion every year, a figure that will double by 2030.
This ‘back to basics’ approach concentrates on awareness-raising, with a simple, easy to understand and impactful message, which is broad and adaptable to every country. If you’re interested in getting involved locally, in addition to the broader work being done by local Alzheimer’s Associations, ADI has a comprehensive toolkit that includes key messages, fact sheets, bulletins, posters, etc.
One of the fact sheets in the toolkit is this useful tip sheet on “5 Ways to Help Reduce Your Risk of Dementia,” which can be reproduced for a number of uses, or you can download from the ADI.
5 ways to help reduce your risk of dementia
1. Look after your heart – Smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity all damage the blood vessels and increase the risk for having a stroke or a heart attack, that could contribute to developing dementia in later life. These problems can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices and should be treated if they do occur.
2. Be physically active – Physical activity and exercise are powerful preventive medicines, helping you control your blood pressure and weight, as well as reducing the risk of type II diabetes and some forms of cancer. There is also some evidence to suggest that some kinds of physical activity can reduce the risk of developing dementia. The good news is that getting active is proven to make us feel good and is a great activity to do with friends and family.
3. Follow a healthy diet – Food is fuel for both brain and body. We can help both to function properly by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Some evidence suggests that a Mediterranean-type diet, rich in cereals, fruits, fish, legumes, and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of dementia. While more studies are needed on the benefits of specific foods or supplements, we do know that eating lots of foods which are high in saturated fat, sugar and/or salt is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and is best avoided.
4. Challenge your brain – By challenging the brain with new activities, you can help build new brain neurons and strengthen the connections between them. This may counter the harmful effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia pathologies. By challenging your brain, you can learn some great new things.
5. Enjoy social activities – Social activities may be beneficial to brain health because they stimulate our brain reserves, helping to reduce our risk of dementia and depression. Try and make time for friends and family. You can even combine your activities with physical and mental exercise through sport or other hobbies.
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