None of us are exempt from aging.  But we can be proactive in taking care of our brain’s health.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association 2011 Facts and FiguresAlzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the country. Based on mortality data from 2000-2008, death rates have declined for most major diseases while deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have risen 66 percent during the same period.

There are nearly 15 million Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers providing 17 billion hours of unpaid care, valued at $202 billionFacts and Figures finds that caregivers not only suffer emotionally but also physically. Because of the toll of caregiving on their own health, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $7.9 billion in additional health care costs in 2010. More than 60 percent of family caregivers report high levels of stress because of the prolonged duration of caregiving and 33 percent report symptoms of depression.

Seven Progressive Stages of Dementia

Someone you know is living with dementia. Being aware of the seven stages of progression will help you and your loved ones cope with this insideous disease.

Keep in mind that individuals can also fluxuate among these stages depending on environment, nutrition, additional health concerns, or stressors.

(1) Stage One – No impairment

  • Person is able to function independently and care for his/her own needs
  • No visible signs of dementia

(2) Stage Two – Very mild

  • Forgetfulness usually associated with “aging”, i.e. misplacing items, wondering if doors were locked, forgetting names of casual associates
  • Increased difficulty with memorization or retaining information

(3) Stage Three – Mild

  • Basic activities of daily life are manageable
  • Increase in short-term memory loss and forgetfulness
  • Repetition of reporting stories or incidents
  • More frequently losing items and having more difficulty retracing steps
  • More complex decisions become difficult, i.e. managing finances, purchasing items, keeping track of dates and addresses, managing medications
  • More easily distracted; loss of concentration
  • Anxiety and difficulty while driving

(4) Stage Four – Moderate

  • Person is more at risk independently
  • Daily routine is more difficult
  • Increase in short-term memory loss
  • Increased forgetfulness
  • Difficulty with word access; sometimes replacing with incorrect word(s)
  • Decreased social interaction
  • Compromised mobility – increase in injuries or falls
  • Incontinence (trouble holding urine)

(5) Stage Five – Mildly Severe

  • Person needs some assistance with daily routine
  • Increase in memory loss, particularly person details such as address, phone number, social security number
  • Increase in assistance needed with financial matters and important decisions
  • Recall and reporting of events becomes more difficult; loss of detail, confusion, or inaccuracy in reporting

(6) Stage Six – Severe

  • Personal care increases with dressing, toileting, feeding, etc.
  • Risk and wandering potential; more supervision needed
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Personality changes
  • Changes in behavior
  • Increased paranoia, aggression or hallucinations
  • Decline in short- and long- term memory

(7) Stage Seven – Very Severe

  • No longer aware of surroundings
  • Loss of relational awareness or connection
  • Total assistance with daily activities needed
  • Complete incontinence
  • Loss of muscle control to smile, swallow, sit, or walk without support

Seven Steps to Boost Your Brainpower

Research has not yet found a cure or prevention for dementia.  There are lifestyle choices, however, you can make now to keep your brain vital and health, and to reduce your risk of dementia.

(1)  Daily Exercise – variety is the key.  Walking just 15 minutes a day stimulates your brain, oxygenates your lungs, stimulates your circulatory system, and strengthens your muslce.  Vitaliy for your mind, body, heart, and soul.

(2) Life Enhancing Food –  fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains (foods containing antioxidants) protect brain neurons from free radicals (toxic chemicals) that damage cells.  Additional foods such as curcumin (found in tumeric) and omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish) are also helpful. Vitamin E, B-12, niacin, and folate have also been suggested to keep your brain healthy.  Toxic food and substances = toxic brain.

(3) Healthful Choices – maintaining healthy weight, not smoking, controlling blood pressure and blood sugar will maximize your brain’s efficiency.

(4) Stress Reduction – reducing stress, relaxing, and getting adequate sleep is essential for maximum mental alterness and functioning.

(5) Mind-Body Activity – solving puzzles, studying or reading about an unfamiliar subject, playing board games, playing a musical instrument or dancing all strengthen the brain cells, the connections between the brain cells, and even the number of brain cells available for your pleasure.

(6) Avoid head injury – wear head protection in sports; wear your seatbelt; stay away from physically aggressive and abusive people.

(7) Socialize – engaging in social activities with friends and family that you enjoy will keep your brain healthier.  Healthy relationships = healthy brain.

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