As we head into spring and see blossoms on the trees, we are reminded of the importance of recommitting to our fight on behalf of the millions of women living with Alzheimer’s. We are also reminded that we have the power to take our health into our own hands, to pay attention to and embrace our brain health, and keep ourselves and our families healthy longer.
The last few months have been a time of political change, and already we have seen policy proposals that threaten to turn back the clock on our war against Alzheimer’s. Blocked in Congress for the time being, the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would severely impact individuals living with Alzheimer’s who rely on the ACA for adequate insurance coverage. This is particularly true for low-income Americans, on whom Alzheimer’s already puts an unfair burden. And the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget would cut funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by nearly 20%, stalling or ending vital projects at the world’s leading Alzheimer’s and brain health research organization.
This is a time to rally for our cause. We are calling on lawmakers to recognize our concerns through the strength of the We Wont Wait campaign’s partnerships, while continuing to advocate for immediate Alzheimer’s solutions, including sex-based research, brain health awareness, and support for caregivers.
At the same time, we are engaging individuals, communities, and the nation in positive discussions about the steps everyone can take to fight Alzheimer’s. These include efforts to build awareness of brain health and Alzheimer’s risk reduction strategies; many of which are based on pioneering research from the NIH. Brain health is the ability to remember, learn, play, concentrate, and maintain a clear and active mind, throughout the course of your life. Yet, few people or policymakers recognize the importance of brain health to overall well-being.
The need for brain health awareness and action is greatest among women. Not only are women twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s, we are also twice as likely to endure the mental, emotional, and physical impacts of caregiving, which can further harm brain health. Therefore, brain health awareness is both a women’s health issue and a political priority.
That’s why we want to provide you with some tips and tricks for keeping your brain healthy. As you join us in raising our voices for the NIH and ACA recipients, we encourage you to share what we already know about Alzheimer’s – that maintaining a strong, healthy brain is both critical and achievable with everyday changes.
A Harvard Special Report outlines six key steps for brain health:
Exercise Regularly – Staying active improves and protects cardiovascular health and lung function, which are closely linked to brain health. Therefore, daily exercise and activity, whether it’s walking, gardening, or swimming, help to maintain both physical and mental fitness.
Actively Learn – Researchers have found that education correlates with stronger cognitive functioning at older ages. Learning and stimulating your mind can encompass a range of efforts, including reading, taking classes, and trying new hobbies.
Maintain a Healthy Diet – The benefits of a healthy diet are well-known, but their impact on brain health adds another reason to choose a balanced mix of foods. Opt for fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains, while steering clear of saturated and trans fats and extra calories.
Sleep Well – Getting six to eight hours of high-quality sleep each night can be beneficial for brain health. To improve sleeping habits, try to stick to a regular schedule, avoid caffeine and excessive exercise at night, and speak with your doctor about recurring sleep problems.
Social Connection – Receiving support from others has been shown to boost mental performance, while building and maintaining close, supportive relationships provides a variety of benefits. These social ties are especially critical for older adults, who face a greater risk for loneliness and isolation.
Avoid Smoking – Research has found that smokers have more difficulty recalling names and faces than non-smokers, and smoking also has a negative effect on the lungs and cardiovascular system. As a result, smoking cessation is a vital lifestyle change for preserving brain health.
Recent proposals indicate a political atmosphere that doesn’t recognize the value of brain health or the fight against Alzheimer’s. We Won’t Wait to change that. Let’s make brain health into a household term, providing a foundation for more advocates to demand action from their representatives in our government.