Rona Barrett

Rona Barrett

You know how you think you know a subject well? Only to find out you don’t? That’s exactly what happened to me recently.

I thought I knew all about Alzheimer’s. As much as I’ve talked and written about this heartbreakingly mind-blowing disease, this shocking fact finally sunk in:

Of the 5.8 million who are living in America with Alzheimer’s, two-thirds are women. That’s shocking.

And no one knows why.

Here’s what we do know: a woman in her sixties is twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s during her life than breast cancer. A woman has a 1 in 5 chance of developing Alzheimer’s after the age of 60. A possible reason may be women’s hormonal changes during menopause and estrogen loss afterwards.

We also know: Alzheimer’s begins to develop 20-30 years before diagnosis. And it’s not a natural part of aging. It’s still 100% fatal, with no treatment or cure, and it’s the only disease without any effective drug or course of action.

If you want to know how not to become Alzheimer’s next victim, listen to the experts who agree on the three ways to reduce our risk: a healthy diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.

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A healthy diet is a lot of what we are already eating: omega-3-rich foods including salmon, mackerel, tuna, soybeans, nuts, flaxseed, and other seeds. Dark chocolate! Berries. Nuts and seeds. Whole grains. Coffee! Avocados, almonds, cashews, and peanuts. Eggs, broccoli, brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage, cauliflower turnips, and kale. Soy products. And don’t forget supplements including vitamins B, C, or E. Beta-carotene, or magnesium, and ginseng can also help. For the why and how, go to www.medicalnewstoday.com –12 foods to boost brain function.

“Moving your body releases a veritable cornucopia of brain chemicals and growth factors that benefit your brain’s anatomy, physiology and function. While higher levels of physical activity may work best to stimulate the birth of new brain cells and synapses ... even a simple walk has demonstrable effects on mood and affect.”

Dr. Lisa Mosconi told the audience this at July’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference wherein the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, AARP, and the Global Council on Brain Health gathered over 65 top leaders in Alzheimer’s research, advocacy and policy for a strategy session on women and Alzheimer’s.

NBC journalist and California Alzheimer’s Task Force Leader Maria Shriver is the founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, which is “dedicated to raising awareness about women’s increased risk of Alzheimer’s and to educating the public – women and men – about lifestyle changes they can make to protect their brain health.” Find out more about her dynamic movement at www.thewomensalzheimersmovement.org.

As I absorb all of these shocking facts, I’m aware that some of us women will embrace the good news that we can protect our brain health – if we act sooner rather than later – by embracing better eating, exercise, and lifestyle habits. And, I’m aware some of us will find it too difficult. I hope the numbers of the former will be higher than the latter.

It would help to keep in mind Ms. Shriver’s pragmatic words of wisdom, “Women are at the epicenter of the Alzheimer’s crisis. That’s why we must be at the heart of the solution.”

Until next time ... keep thinking the good thoughts.

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Senior activist and local resident Rona Barrett is the driving force behind the Golden Inn & Village (GIV), the area’s first affordable senior living facility. GIV strives to bring services to seniors so they may age in place. Reach her at info@ronabarrettfoundation.org. Visit www.ronabarrettfoundation.org for more information.