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With roughly 38,000 residents over 65 in West Virginia with Alzheimer’s, the state chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is trying to better educate local seniors, family members and caregivers about the disease.
During the monthly workshop Wednesday, JT Hunter share tips for brain health and healthy living.
Hunter, Family Services Coordinator with West Virginia Chapter, said what’s good for the heart is good for the brain.
He explained that the brain sends messages to the body constantly — it tells us when we’re hungry, when we should speak, and when we should go to the bathroom.
“Alzheimer’s starts to latch onto these switches that send these messages,” Hunter said. “That person isn’t getting those messages anymore.”
He said there are ways to help keep our brains healthy, such as eating right, being physically active, building brain strength and engaging in social activity.
Hunter especially recommends dark green, leafy vegetables for brain health, as well as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. He also said the Mediterranean Diet and the DASH Diet are two diets associated with a lowered risk for Alzheimer’s.
He said physical activity doesn’t have to be running or lifting weights. It can be as simple as parking farther away from your destination to get in a few extra steps.
“Healthy habits add up, and if you do it often enough, it will become a habit.”
As for brain strength, Hunter encouraged everyone to try different things — even as simple as swapping from your dominant hand to brush your teeth, or taking an alternate route home.
While he said there’s not much research available, social interaction is believed to be one way to lower risk of Alzheimer’s.
“The biggest thing someone with Alzheimer’s can do is talk. They can reminisce.”
He also said it’s important for family members and caregivers to talk, too. Caregivers can become isolated quickly, and feel guilty for engaging in activities. But Hunter said social activity is important for physical and emotional health.
In West Virginia, as many as 44,000 individuals are projected to have Alzheimer’s by 2025. Nationwide, more than five million people are living with the disease. Alzheimer’s is the only disease in the top 10 causes of death with no cure or prevention.
Nicole Nesmith, a coordinator with the West Virginia Chapter of the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, said these workshops are free and open to anyone who wants to learn more.
“These workshops are a great tool to educate families and caregivers. It allows them to know they’re not alone.”
For more information about upcoming workshops and other resources, visit alz.org/wv or call 1-800-272-3900.
follow on Twitter @WendyHoldren
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