September is World Alzheimer's Month.


On Saturday, I walked with hundreds of others in the local “Walk
to End Alzheimer’s” fund raising event. In memory of my mother, who died due to complications of dementia this year, I walked the few miles and made some new friends. One family had matching tee shirts with pictures of a loving father and grandfather they lost to the disease in June. During the opening comments
one brave participant volunteered that he has been diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s which claims victims in their 40’s and 50’s.   The
website sign-up form didn’t warn me to bring a handkerchief for my tears.

Over 5.4 million people are diagnosed with this disease and around 15 million people are challenged as caregivers.  By 2030, these numbers will have doubled. Chances are you know someone who has Alzheimer’s or who has a family member providing care to someone with the disease.  View the numbers for yourself.

Currently there is no cure and no way to delay or stop the progression of this memory robber.  First, short term memory is affected and then after eight to ten years of slow decline, the final stage impacts the part of the gray matter which tells the heart to beat and the lungs to take in air.  Scientists have been able to determine that an abnormal cluster of protein – plaque – builds up between the brain’s nerve cells and their neurotransmitters causing a disruption of the flow of electrical impulses.  Maybe there is some truth to the old saying, “I’ve got cobwebs in the attic.”

There are lots of myths which have been proven wrong about what causes Alzheimer’s.  No, using aluminum pots and pans does not cause Alzheimer’s.   Early studies suggest there is a close correlation between Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases. The website reports that “[e]very heartbeat pumps about 20 to 25 percent of your blood to your head, where brain cells use at least 20 percent of the food and oxygen your blood carries.”  So, if the heart and its network of blood vessels are not healthy, it can have a tremendous impact on brain function.

Like cancer and many other distasteful scourges, scientists still haven’t been able to pinpoint a cure to prevent damage to our domes. However, as there is such a high correlation between Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases, there are preventative steps that can be taken to stave off possible brain deterioration. It’s back to the basics – diet and exercise.

  1. Physical exercise keeps the heart and blood vessels healthy and maintains a strong delivery system for oxygenated blood to the brain.
  2. A diet filled with whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, nuts and good fats makes the blood rich in nutrients needed by the brain and the rest of the body.

All of the facts stated above are from the Alzheimer’s Association website.  The site is informative and comprehensive.  If you know someone who has been impacted by this scary disease, show some love and make a contribution of your time, talent and money today.


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