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Ladies, we know there’s a lot weighing on your mind right now. Keeping your family healthy and safe likely ranks top on the list. But we’re here with a gentle reminder that maintaining your long-term health is important for you and those you care so much about.
This is why we’re talking about preventing Alzheimer’s disease.
Statistics show that women are more likely than men to develop Alzheimer’s, but recent research points to ways to lower your risk. While life can seem uncertain at times, hope is always your anchor — like it is ours. And when you do rise from today’s many challenges, you’ll want to feel strong and confident about your whole health for years to come.
Because Alzheimer's disease affects women in particular, read our tips to improve your memory, know how to recognize when you might need help and how we’re working to provide whole-person care that’s safe.
Most Occasional Forgetfulness is Normal
It’s the classic memory slip: “Where did I put my keys?” Then, there are the moments when you forget the name of your new neighbor or lose your to-do list. Does forgetting these things from time-to-time mean you have to worry about the onset of Alzheimer’s disease? Most likely not.
These occasional slips in memory and breaks in concentration are quite common at all ages. The usual reason is not paying close enough attention to information. That usually happens when, for instance, you try to send an email, answer a text message and tell your spouse what’s for dinner all at the same time. That busyness is how many of us are living these days, and it certainly doesn’t help with our attention spans.
Tips to Improve Your Memory
There are effective steps you can take to improve your memory:
Getting organized. For example, always keep your keys in one spot and making lists.
Paying attention and slowing down. You need about eight seconds to make a memory.
Stopping the multitasking. That will help you focus on the information you want to remember.
Along with keeping your memory sharp, there’s plenty of research about ways to keep the brain healthy. In fact, the brain can renew itself and make new connections even in our later years. So, make an effort to care for your brain health even when other priorities compete for your time. Here are a few ways to do it.
Get Regular Exercise
Regular cardiovascular exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week can raise your heart rate and also increase blood flow to the brain and body. Several studies have shown a link between physical activity and a lower risk of cognitive decline.
Prioritize regular physical activity with these tips:
Do virtual exercise classes
Practice social distancing
Set up a home exercise routine
Wear a mask if you go outside or into a public place for exercise
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Some studies link a history of depression with a higher risk of cognitive decline. Be sure to talk with a doctor if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns. Managing stress is also important. You’ll want to be especially careful if you find yourself in the role of caregiver. Long periods of chronic stress can be harmful to your health. Taking steps to lower your stress can help you concentrate better, make better decisions and have a better quality of life.
Ways to relieve stress may include:
Build Your Social Support
Staying socially engaged may support brain health, especially when you pursue social activities that have special meaning to you. Family bonds and creating a sense of community can improve your mental and brain health.
Yes, recent events may have put a damper on social engagement. But just because you can’t be there in body doesn’t mean you can’t be there in spirit. Here are some ways to stay connected while physically apart.
Celebrate milestones together using greeting cards, technology and “drive-by” events.
Find ways to be a part of your local community.
Use virtual resources to stay socially connected. Zoom, FaceTime or a phone call can help prevent a sense of isolation.
More Ways to Boost Brain Health
Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically. Challenging your mind may have short-term and long-term benefits for your brain.
Don't smoke. Smoking has been shown to raise the risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can lower that risk to levels that compare to non-smokers.
Eat a healthy diet. A healthy, balanced diet that’s lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit can help maintain optimal brain health.
Get enough sleep. Poor sleep because of problems like insomnia or sleep apnea may lead to problems with memory and thinking.
Keep learning. Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. A class at a local college, community center or online can be a great way to keep your brain active and healthy.
Maintain good heart health. Risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes have been shown to negatively impact your brain health, too.
Put your safety first. Brain injury can raise the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike and take steps to prevent falls.
When Forgetfulness Could Be Something More
While occasional forgetfulness happens to everyone now and then, Alzheimer's disease is much different. It’s a disease that involves the brain's ability to function.
One of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease is memory loss, so it’s understandable that moments of forgetfulness raise concern. However, in Alzheimer's disease, more than one cognitive process is changed. For instance, people may forget the day or month or have trouble thinking of words or making change at the store. The disease gets worse over time and finally affects a person’s ability to function.
Typically, Alzheimer's disease symptoms develop slowly and steadily over a number of years. If all your symptoms appear over a few months, it’s not likely you have Alzheimer's disease. Other risk factors for Alzheimer's disease include being older and female, having diabetes, coronary artery disease or sleep apnea, or some combination of these factors.
We Are Here to Help Support You
If you’re concerned about your brain health, talk with your doctor about your symptoms and next steps to ease your mind. Our Women’s Health Care and Neurology Care experts collaborate to deliver the care you need with extra safety measures in place, including expanded virtual visits.