Brain health up to all of us

Baby boomers in the Alberni Valley, like their counterparts around the rest of the country, have a troubling lack of awareness about Alzheimer disease, according to a new online survey.

Baby boomers in the Alberni Valley, like their counterparts around the rest of the country, have a troubling lack of awareness about Alzheimer disease, according to a new online survey.

Almost one-quarter of B.C. baby boomers can’t name any of the early signs of Alzheimer’s, which is worrisome because the risk level for boomers doubles every five years after age 65.

Loss of memory is the obvious one. But hallucinations, sudden changes in personality, odd behaviour and complete dependency on others are also signs.

Perhaps most troubling, says Jane Hope of the Alzheimer Society of B.C., is that respondents to a national survey could not identify controllable risk factors: obesity, diabetes, heart disease and chronic depression.

While Alzheimer’s is known as an “old person’s disease”, it can strike people as early as age 40. Changes in the brain can begin to appear decades before diagnosis. Yet because of the nature of dementia, people are reluctant to talk about it.

It is up to all of us to take responsibility for our own brain health.

Currently there are no known cure for diseases like Alzheimer’s or different types of dementia, but studies show that lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk and slow progression of the disease.

Some of these changes are remarkably simple: eat a balanced diet. Exercise regularly. Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check. Engage in social and challenging activities—many people choose puzzles such as crosswords or video games to keep themselves challenged.

Most importantly, educate yourself.