Empowering Women to Protect Their Brain Health

Every March, the Dana Foundation and its partners organize Brain Awareness Week: a global campaign to promote public awareness of the brain and brain research. WA2 sees Brain Awareness Week as a vital opportunity to inspire and empower women to take control of their brain health and address their risk for Alzheimer’s.

This campaign addresses a key gap in public understanding. Though brain health is essential for a person’s overall health and well-being, relatively few regularly pay attention to its importance. Indeed, brain health is an essential aspect of women’s health at all ages, as women face a disproportionate risk and impact from Alzheimer’s and illnesses affecting mental wellbeing. 

Women are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s and twice as likely to bear the brunt of the mental, emotional, and physical burden of Alzheimer’s caregiving. This vicious cycle leads to more crises, as caregivers see their own brain health suffer. With the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s expected to roughly triple by 2050, it’s imperative to educate women about their brain health and the daily changes they can make to reduce their risk.

Brain health is complex – affected by many factors playing out over a person’s life. Indeed, each of our small, daily decisions and habits impact our brain health. So it’s not an abstract matter for anonymous researchers; it’s deeply personal, as the foundation of our ability to experience and enjoy life.

With this in mind, the following eight activities can serve as a guide for women to understand and improve their brain health: 

  1. Stay active: Exercising regularly can help increase energy, improve sleep, and stimulate chemical changes in the brain that enhance mood, learning, and memory. It’s an important aspect of brain health, as well as your overall physical health.
  2. Engage your brain: Just as physical fitness is essential to brain health, mental fitness is equally important to the brain’s functioning. Engage your brain with mentally challenging pursuits including reading, brain games, puzzles, learning a new skill or hobby, or getting involved with a local charity or community organization.
  3. Sleep well: Poor sleep can affect your ability to think creatively and multi-task the next day, and over the long-term, it can impact your brain health. Make sure to get an adequate amount of good sleep, and check with a doctor for any sleep problems.
  4. Eat healthy: Food that is rich in antioxidants can help fend off the harmful effects of stress and environmental factors that negatively impact brain health. Some studies show specific vitamins and nutrients may even target and repair specific areas of the brain. Strive for a healthy and balanced diet to realize these benefits.
  5. Meet up: Stimulating conversation and remaining connected with family and friends can be good for your brain health. Studies suggest that those with more community interaction experience the slowest rate of memory loss.
  6. Talk to your doctor: Be sure to discuss brain health during your annual visit to your primary care physician. In particular, talk to your doctor about any changes in memory or cognition that you notice.
  7. Manage stress: Chronic stress has been shown to hurt brain health and affect learning and memory. Proper rest and relaxation activities can help you to reduce inflammation in these same brain areas. 
  8. Consider clinical trials: Research volunteers are critical for advancing the overall field of brain health and Alzheimer’s medicine. You may qualify for a trial near you, even if you don’t have a condition – check with the Memory Strings Alliance to find a list of trials and research organizations in your area.

Brain health is essential for women in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Let’s raise our voices so that every woman understands the importance of their brain health and the steps they can take to safeguard their cognitive well-being.