22222222The heart of remembering – shedding light on Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month
By Gloria Jiang
It is essential to highlight a crucial cause that affects millions of people all over the world – Alzheimer’s Disease. June, recognized as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month, is dedicated to increasing public awareness about the disease, promoting brain health, and gathering support for individuals living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, as well as their families and caregivers.
The Facts on Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia among older adults, is a degenerative brain disorder that gradually destroys memory and cognitive abilities, and ultimately, the ability to perform basic daily activities autonomously. It is not a normal part of aging, and shockingly, statistics indicate that approximately 1 in 3 seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. The mortality rate associated with Alzheimer’s surpasses that of breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 6.7 million Americans aged 65 and above are currently affected by Alzheimer’s. Of this population, 73% are aged 75 or older, and about 10.7% are aged 65 and older. These statistics highlight the prevalence of the disease among the elderly. Moreover, it is projected that the number will rise to nearly 13 million by 2050 due to the continuous growth of the U.S. population in the 65 and older age group.
Impacts on Individuals and Society
Due to its irreversible nature, Alzheimer’s disease has deep and far-reaching implications, impacting not just the individuals diagnosed with the disease but also their families, caregivers, and society at large.
On an individual level, Alzheimer’s disease not only brings about significant cognitive impairment, but also a myriad of emotional and psychological challenges, ranging from mood swings and anxiety to depression. As the disease’s progressive nature results in an inevitable loss of independence, it significantly diminishes patients’ quality of life in later stages, rendering their time extremely challenging and distressing.
The burden extends beyond the individual to their families and caregivers. Witnessing a loved one battle Alzheimer’s can precipitate substantial emotional distress, characterized by feelings of helplessness, frustration, and profound grief. Caregivers bear the brunt of the physical and mental toll, often grappling with high levels of stress, depression, and a host of other health issues. Additionally, the financial strain associated with caring for Alzheimer’s patients can be considerable, often necessitating professional caregivers or specialized residential care, which can put families under significant financial pressure.
From a societal or scientific perspective, despite decades of research have identified key features of the disease—such as the accumulation of amyloid plaques between neurons and the formation of toxic tau protein clumps, known as tangles, within neurons, the disease’s root causes and the optimal clinical treatment methods remain noticeably incomplete. Most crucially, a significant controversy stirred the field of Alzheimer’s research in 2022 in which new evidence indicated that researchers had fabricated images in a paper published 16 years ago. This paper had been a trusted reference for many researchers in their subsequent work, adding to the challenge of the research of development in this area.
The history of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month dates back to the establishment of Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Week in 1980 by the Alzheimer’s Association. The week was initiated to raise public awareness about the disease and promote understanding of the challenges faced by individuals affected by this neurodegenerative condition. Over time, as public awareness grew, President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in the United States in 1983. Since then, Alzheimer’s Disease has garnered more and more attention, resulting in numerous research and support by the affected party.
In 2021, President Joe Biden reaffirmed the commitment of the White House to expedite research efforts in the pursuit of a cure. Recognizing the significance of November, President Biden declared it once again as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, emphasizing the importance of raising awareness and advocating for advancements in understanding, prevention, and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Here are some ways to participate in Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month ALL YEAR LONG:
Purple serves as the official color of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month. Donning purple clothing or accessories, or even turning your social media profile picture to purple, represents the simplest yet powerful gesture of solidarity towards those individuals, families, and caregivers who are relentlessly grappling with the disease. It also stands as a symbolic tribute to the heightened consciousness about the disease and continuous backing for scientists committed to discovering a cure for this debilitating condition.
Educate Yourself and Others:
Learning about the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can help individuals identify early signs in loved ones, seek timely medical intervention, and better understand the challenges faced by patients and their families. It also dispels myths and misconceptions, reducing the stigma associated with Alzheimer’s.
Consider attending relevant awareness programs, seminars, and workshops to receive valuable information. Moreover, organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association and other healthcare institutions provide comprehensive guides and share the latest scientific advancements, all you need is simply clicking their websites. By becoming informed and spreading awareness, we can contribute to early diagnosis, improved patient care, and the global pursuit for a cure.
Donate or Fundraise:
On the summer solstice, June 21st, people in the United States engage in numerous fundraising activities as part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s initiative. The longest day symbolizes a firm faith that the light will outshine the darkness of Alzheimer’s. There are many other ways to participate throughout June. For instance, Alzheimer’s research is vastly underfunded. You can donate directly or participate in fundraising events to support research initiatives, care support services, and advocacy efforts.
Promoting Brain Health
Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month offers an excellent opportunity to prioritize brain health. Particularly for our elderly population, maintaining a healthy brain state is a critical step towards minimizing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. As youngsters, this month sets an alarm for us to care for the seniors at home. Adopting a brain-healthy lifestyle can have a profound impact on cognitive longevity. This includes maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins; regular physical exercise; staying mentally active through puzzles, reading, and learning new skills; and fostering social engagement with family and friends.
Furthermore, regular health check-ups and timely management of other health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are equally important. Remember that every small step counts. By embracing these habits, we not only contribute to our cognitive health but also inspire our communities to join us in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.