Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter Encourages Americans to Make Brain Health a Priority as Part of Their Return to Normal
June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month
FOR THE ANTIGO TIMES
With COVID-19 vaccines rolling out across the country, many Americans are looking forward to resuming their lives and returning to normal. This June, during Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, the Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter is encouraging residents to make brain health an important part of their return to normal.
“The past year has been extremely challenging for most Americans,” said Julie St. Pierre, Community Outreach Coordinator, Alzheimer’s Association Wisconsin Chapter. “Chronic stress, like that experienced during the pandemic, can impact memory, mood and anxiety. As Wisconsin residents begin to return to normal, we encourage them to make brain health a priority.”
The Alzheimer’s Association offers these five suggestions to promote brain health:
Recommit to Brain-Healthy Basics
Evidence suggests that healthy behaviors took a back seat for many Americans during the pandemic. Many experts agree that people can improve their brain health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline by adopting healthy lifestyle habits, preferably in combination, including:
- Exercise regularly — Regular cardiovascular exercise helps increase blood flow to the body and brain, and there is strong evidence that regular physical activity is linked to better memory and thinking.
- Maintain a heart-healthy diet — Stick to a meal schedule full of fruits and vegetables to ensure a well-balanced diet. Some evidence suggests a healthful diet is linked to cognitive performance. The Mediterranean and DASH diets are linked to better cognitive functioning, and help reduce risk of heart disease as well.
- Get proper sleep — Maintaining a regular, uninterrupted sleep pattern benefits physical and psychological health, and helps clear waste from the brain. Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep each night and try to keep a routine bedtime.
- Stay socially and mentally active — Meaningful social engagement may support cognitive health, so stay connected with friends and family. Engage your mind by doing activities that stump you, like completing a jigsaw puzzle or playing strategy games.
Return to Normal at Your Own Pace
Many Americans are eager for a return to normal life following the pandemic, but others are anxious. For those feeling anxious, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests taking small steps. It may also be important to set boundaries and communicate your preferences to others in your social circles.
There is evidence to suggest that helping others during the pandemic may not only make you feel better, but it may be good for you as well. Research shows that helping others in a crisis can be an effective way to alleviate stress and anxiety. To help others and yourself during June and throughout the year, volunteer in your community, run errands or deliver meals to a home-bound senior or donate to a favorite cause.
Unplug and Disconnect
Technology has dominated our daily lives during the pandemic like never before. Experts warn that excessive stimulation coming from our phones, computers, social media sources and news reports can add to our already heightened anxiety levels. To avoid technology overload, experts advise setting limits on your screen time, avoid carrying your phone everywhere, and disconnecting from digital devices at bedtime.
Control Your Stress Before it Controls You
In small doses, stress teaches the brain how to respond in healthy ways to the unexpected, inconvenient or unpleasant realities of daily life. Prolonged or repeated stress, however, can wear down and damage the brain, leading to serious health problems including depression, anxiety disorders, memory loss and increased risk for dementia. Meditation, exercise, listening to music or returning to a favorite activity you have missed during the pandemic are just some ways to manage stress.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been an overwhelming time for all of us,” St. Pierre said. “It’s important for people to know there are steps we can take to lessen the stress and anxiety we might be feeling. It can be easy to take brain health for granted, but now more than ever, it’s a good idea to make it a priority.”
About Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month
Created by the Alzheimer’s Association in 2014, Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month is dedicated to encouraging a global conversation about the brain and Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia. To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, available resources and how you can get involved to support the cause, visit alz.org.
About the Alzheimer’s Association
The Alzheimer’s Association is a worldwide voluntary health organization dedicated to Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to lead the way to end Alzheimer’s and all other dementia — by accelerating global research, driving risk reduction and early detection, and maximizing quality care and support. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s and all other dementia®. Visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900.