I had the pleasure of attending the 2018 Us Against Alzheimer’s Summit in DC last week, where I watched many inspiring and interesting panel discussions from thought leaders and activists working not only towards finding a cure, but also in raising awareness of the realities of those living with all forms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
One of the most powerful panels that I attended was a group of women talking about the need to make brain health, like heart health, a priority in our culture.
It used to be that we would only talk about heart health after a major heart event – like a heart attack or a stroke – but as advocates started to change this conversation and impress the importance of taking care of your heart health, the conversation became a common topic between patients, health care providers and our community at large. We all know and accept how important exercise and diet are for our hearts and openly discuss our issues with friends and family without shame or misunderstanding.
Now we need to work toward a similar cultural shift around the topic of brain health!
I was shocked to learn that when women 25-65 were asked about their health concerns in recent studies, ‘brain health’ rose to the top of the list, superseded only by ‘weight loss’ and ‘aging’. Although 55% of those surveyed said they were ‘very concerned’ or ‘concerned’ about brain health – only a THIRD said they were taking action or doing something about it – and that number dropped to surprising 14% when asked specifically about Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Sarah Lock, the Senior Vice President of Policy at AARP reported that, according to a different study, almost everybody (98%) knows that healthy living and a maintaining a healthy lifestyle is good for their brain health. (Makes you wonder about the other 2%!) This data shows a real gap between concerns and behavior.
With no treatment or cure for dementia in sight, preventative brain health is our only realistic course of action today.
We now know that Alzheimer’s can begin to develop up to 20 years before we see its symptoms, so focusing on brain health at a young age may be our best weapon in slowing or preventing process right now… and may even give you an extra 10 years of healthy life… or more! Brain health is something you can take control of.