Celebrities, specialists, and doctors were among the guests who discussed brain health and Alzheimer’s at a recent event in partnership with The Kensington Senior Living.
Brain It On!, a free virtual summit, brought together the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement (WAM) and Hilarity for Charity (HFC) to educate the community on how to improve brain health. These are two of the nation’s leading Alzheimer’s and brain health-focused nonprofit organizations.
Read on to learn the key takeaways from the event, including the best brain health diet, stress relief tips, and the first signs of Alzheimer’s.
Brain It On!: Key Takeaways on Alzheimer’s Prevention
Maria Shriver, founder of WAM, and Lauren Miller Rogen, co-founder of HFC, introduced their Brain It On! event and discussion topics, which focused on how a brain-healthy life can prevent Alzheimer’s.
Leading experts and celebrity advocates discussed ways to improve your diet, sleep, and stress levels, which all contribute to brain health.
The experts also dove into women’s brain health, to explain why Alzheimer’s affects a greater number of women than men.
Eating for Brain Health
In the first breakout session, Dr. Annie Fenn and Dr. Ayesha Sherzai shared tips and information on the best foods for brain health. These foods keep brains strong and result in better function, no matter your age.
Dr. Annie Fenn noted the MIND diet, which includes foods such as:
- Leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and lettuce
- Blueberries and strawberries
- Olive oil
Grab nuts and berries for snacks over packaged foods, and eat a lot of fruits as a treat instead of desserts filled with sugar. The doctors also agreed on the importance of fiber in the diet.
Sleep and Exercise
A session led by Julianne Hough, Apolo Ohno, Dr. Wendy Zuzuki, and Dr. Jennifer Zientz discussed the importance of sleep, exercise, and cognitive fitness for brain health.
Dr. Jennifer Zientz introduced neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and change through experience. This, in turn, builds a solid cognitive reserve to protect our brains as we move through life.
Through sleep, movement, social connections, and experiences, we’re able to build new brain connections, improve our cognitive reserve, and protect the brain from decline.
Meditation and Stress Relief
Dr. Lakelyn Hogan began the third breakout session by discussing the intense stress and burdens that dementia caregivers face, which ultimately can lead to burnout.
Dr. Dharma Khalsa explained that spiritual fitness is a new concept in medicine. Through meditation or faith, this practice can lead to a greater understanding of who you are and what you need.
He said having a purpose in life dramatically reduces the occurrence of Alzheimer’s — and he believes our ultimate purpose is to strip away all our accumulated layers of stress to return to our true identity and become our best selves.
Women and Brain Health
The fourth session featured experts actively working to find answers and solutions to why women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than men.
Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton discussed how the process of menopause is typically thought of as being centered on reproduction, but it actually is completely driven by the brain. She said research has found the brain can undergo an “energy crisis” during this process — and how we respond to it is critical.
To aid the brain during this crucial time of significant brain changes, the experts recommend discussing hormone therapy or participating in local studies with your health professionals.
Dr. Jessica Caldwell also highly recommended exercise and meditation for better brain health.
Alzheimer’s Disease: First Signs and Symptoms
While memory can change as we age, memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a normal part of the aging process.
Friends and family members should be aware of the first signs of Alzheimer’s, because early intervention and diagnosis can help significantly delay the progression of the disease.
Watch for these signs:
- Regularly forgetting events
- Repeating themselves
- Issues with planning or problem solving
- Forgetting to pay bills or take medication
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks such as cooking or driving
- Confusion about time or place
- Issues with balance, spilling, or dropping items
- Trouble putting together words
- Poor judgment
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
It’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible to not only receive a proper Alzheimer’s diagnosis for treatment, but to also rule out other illnesses that can cause similar symptoms.
How Alzheimer’s Progresses
Alzheimer’s affects each individual differently. Some may progress slowly, while others progress more quickly. However, the progression follows a typical pattern, from the preclinical stage to the severe, late stage of the disease.
This stage of brain change can last for years with no symptoms, which is why following expert advice to take brain health seriously is important. At any point, we can begin slowing down the progression by implementing brain-health changes.
In the early stage, the person may still be living independently but might begin to experience forgetfulness and issues with planning and organization.
The middle stage usually is the longest. Symptoms will become increasingly more troublesome and include difficulty learning new things, remembering their own name, and losing track of time and place. The person may begin to require assistance with bathing and dressing, and experience behavioral changes.
In the late stages of Alzheimer’s, the person usually will lose the ability to walk, sit, or eat on their own. They will require assistance with almost all activities and will be unaware of their surroundings or recent experiences.
When a Memory Care Community is the Best Option
The decision to move a loved one with Alzheimer’s to a memory care community — and when to do it — can be a deeply personal and difficult choice for a family to make. However, choosing the right community makes all the difference.
Kensington Place Redwood City offers two memory care neighborhoods to provide our residents with the best and most accurate level of care for their needs, from the first signs of Alzheimer’s. The Connections neighborhood is for residents in the early to middle stages of dementia, while Haven is for those in the middle to late stages.
These cozy environments were designed with the ultimate safety, security, and comfort in mind, so your loved ones receive the specific level of care they require. Expert dining services and carefully crafted life enrichment programs round out a long list of services and amenities designed to make the perfect home environment.
Our Promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own. We appreciate and honor each and every resident, and are dedicated to making them feel loved and secure. Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for your family.