Kensington Senior Living recently teamed up with two leading Alzheimer’s disease research and education organizations to present a free virtual summit, packed with information and encouragement for living brain-healthy lives.
Maria Shriver, founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM), and Lauren Miller Rogen, co-founder of Hilarity for Charity (HFC), introduced the event, which consisted of four breakout sessions focused on different ways to support your brain and prevent Alzheimer’s.
Learn more about the session topics, including lifestyle factors that contribute to the development of the disease and signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s to watch for.
Experts Discuss Lifestyle Factors that Contribute to Alzheimer’s
Brain education and research are constantly evolving, and what is known today about the brain is vastly different than what experts used to know.
During the Brain It On! event, experts discussed which lifestyle factors contribute to Alzheimer’s, and how understanding this information can lead to lifestyle tweaks that protect the brain and prevent the development of Alzheimer’s.
Eating for Brain Health
In the event’s first session, Dr. Annie Fenn and Dr. Ayesha Sherzai shared their food tips for protecting and nourishing the brain. The doctors agreed that reducing and replacing sugar with healthier substitutes is important, as well as making sure you get enough fiber in your diet.
To hit both these goals, Dr. Ayesha Sherzai recommended eating more fruit, to curb your sugar cravings and also boost your fiber intake.
Dr. Annie Fenn pointed to the MIND diet as a guide for foods you should eat to keep your brain strong and healthy. This diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet, which was created for those with high blood pressure.
The MIND diet consists of:
- Green leafy vegetables
- Cooking with olive oil over butter
- Blueberries and strawberries
- Whole grains
- Fish and poultry
- Dark chocolate
Sleep, Exercise, and Cognitive Fitness
The experts in the second session discussed the importance of getting good sleep, moving your body, and exercising your mind for optimal brain health and performance.
Dr. Jennifer Zientz said experts used to believe that the brain was unchangeable, and we each were born with all the cells and connections we would have for our entire lives. Today, she said we understand neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and change through experiences.
Our brains are wiring and rewiring each day as a result of our experiences, which include physical and cognitive exercise, activities, and social connections. Then, these experiences are boosted and protected by good sleep. Continuously creating and engaging in these experiences and activities will build a protective “cognitive reserve.”
Stress Relief and Meditation
Have you ever heard of caregiver burnout? Dr. Lakelyn Hogan began the third breakout session with a discussion on the intense stress and burden of dementia caregivers, which ultimately can lead to a caregiver feeling “burned out” and experiencing mental, emotional, and physical symptoms.
Prolonged stress weighs heavily on the brain, but a new concept in medicine can help educate people on the importance of relieving stress. Dr. Dharma Khalsa introduced this concept as “spiritual fitness.” By practicing meditation or faith, we can develop a greater understanding of who we are and what we need at our core.
Dr. Dharma Khalsa believes having a purpose in life dramatically reduces the occurrence of Alzheimer’s, and this purpose comes from returning to ourselves through spiritual practices and peeling back layers of accumulated stress from our daily lives.
Women’s Brain Health Considerations
Women are disproportionately affected by Alzheimer’s, which is why organizations such as WAM are dedicated to uncovering how and why. In the final session, experts discussed the leading research and considerations for women’s brain health, with a focus on hormones and menopause.
Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton said many people believe menopause is solely a reproductive function, but it actually is completely driven by the brain. During this time, the brain undergoes considerable changes and can undergo an “energy crisis” as a result. Dr. Brinton said how we respond to this energy crisis is critical.
Dr. Jessica Caldwell said exercise and meditation are essential for brain health as women move through menopause. The experts recommended hormone therapy or participating in local research studies to support your brain during menopause, as research is still underway for the best options for women.
Signs of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
When Alzheimer’s disease occurs in someone younger than age 65, it is considered early onset. While Alzheimer’s is not a natural part of aging, it most often occurs in those age 65 or older.
When those younger than 65 develop Alzheimer’s, it usually is the common form of the disease. But some may develop a rare form caused by genetics. Experts don’t know what exactly triggers the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, but certain protein build-ups and tangles are visible on those with Alzheimer’s in large quantities that damage the brain.
Watch for these signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and visit the doctor as soon as possible to receive a proper diagnosis:
- Forgetting new information or important dates
- Asking for information repeatedly
- Issues following recipes or paying bills
- Forgetting date or time of year
- Vision problems
- Poor judgment
- Forgetting where you are or how you got there
- Mood and personality changes
- Withdrawing from social activities
How Do Memory Care Communities Support Those with Dementia?
No matter what stage of Alzheimer’s your loved one is in, you can seek professional care. In fact, moving a loved one to a memory care community soon after they develop signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s can be beneficial for allowing them to “age in place” in a safe, secure community with full access to medical care and services.
At The Kensington Falls Church, our Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own. This promise extends into all aspects of care, from dining to life enrichment and rehabilitation.
We offer two memory care neighborhoods to more accurately meet the unique needs of your loved one. The Connections neighborhood is for those in the early to middle stages of dementia, while the Haven neighborhood is for those in the middle to late stages.
Reach out to us today to learn more about our team, our services, and all the ways we can support your loved one.