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'I'm trying to deal with these things today': June is Alzheimer's, Brain Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month
Posted at 5:56 AM, Jun 11, 2024

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month. The Alzheimer's Association wants people to "take charge" of their brain health to prevent the onset of Alzheimer's and other dementias.

Worldwide, the association reports more than 55 million people live with dementia in some form. In America, it is around seven million people.

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Prisca Asaro is the program director for the local Alzheimer's Association. She has a tie to the disease after caring for her mother, who died in 2022. Asaro said, unlike her father's cancer diagnosis, her mother's dementia came with little guidance.

“When my mother got the diagnosis back in 2016, it was, 'She has Alzheimer's. Here's a prescription. We'll see you in a year.’ How do I take care of her? What kind of decisions do you need to make? What are the tests that are going to happen? Will there be new medications coming forward? You don't have that support system," Asaro said.

Asaro learned about the resources available, like the ones through the Alzheimer's Association. She encourages people to plan before a diagnosis so navigating the disease is easier. Such as finding specialists nearby, searching out support groups, learning more about the disease and how it progresses, think about the healthcare and insurance aspects. She also wants people to know about the risk factors and early signs.

“My mother had it so that puts me at risk. I'm female, I'm Mexican American, so I'm one and a half times more risk. So I'm a lot of risk factors right up against me," Asaro said.

But some things can be controlled. The Alzheimer's Association has 10 healthy habits for brain health.

  1. Challenge your mind
  2. Stay in school
  3. Get moving
  4. Protect your head
  5. Be smoke-free
  6. Control your blood pressure
  7. Manage diabetes
  8. Eat right
  9. Maintain a healthy weight
  10. Sleep well

Tim Donnelly is on the board of the Alzheimer's Association. He lost his father in 2003 after dealing with Alzheimer's. Donnelly said he has a different outlook on his health after seeing the progression of the disease first-hand.
“One thing that that I noticed in my dad's life is that he did not routinely exercise and so I've taken upon myself to exercise over the past 20 years since he's passed, whether it's running in local races or cycling. I'm trying to stay as active as I can, so that I don't repeat the same stories to my grandchildren later in life. I'm trying to deal with these things today," Donnelly said.

One resource Asaro recommends people know about is the Alzheimer's Association's 24/7 help hotline. The number is 800-272-3900. Caregivers and those living with Alzheimer's and other dementias can call anytime for help, advice or other issues.