June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. We often don’t think of brain health until something happens, but keeping your brain healthy is just as important as keeping your body healthy. Researchers have found that approximately 10 percent of adults in the United States age 65 and older have dementia, while another 22 percent have mild cognitive impairment. Cognitive impairment of any degree can alter one’s independence, safety, activities of daily living, and often can affect relationships with loved ones. “If you’ve experienced confusion or memory loss more often in the last 12 months or feel like it’s getting worse, this is considered subjective cognitive decline and may indicate a need for a lifestyle change or further medical follow-up,” said Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation speech-language pathologist Becky Hill.
Environmental factors such as lack of sleep, depression/anxiety, uncontrolled blood pressure and blood sugars, chronic urinary tract infections, and certain medications can impact subjective cognitive decline. Luckily, research has indicated that there are preventative measures we can take to keep our brains healthy. “For years, we have concentrated on keeping our bodies healthy by following diet and exercise, therefore, our bodies are starting to outlive our brains. Research shows that if one spends 30 minutes five or more times a week doing physical and cognitive exercise, follows a healthy diet of colorful fruits and vegetables, limits the amount of fat from sugar or salty foods, drinks plenty of water, engages in social activity, and manages overall health, the risk for subjective memory loss and a diagnosis of cognitive impairment can be reduced,” Hill explained.
Hill is part of Blount Memorial’s Brain Health Enrichment Program, which offers free cognitive screenings at East Tennessee Medical Group to help individuals experiencing any form of cognitive change. Changes could be considered very mild to an extremely severe impairment resulting from stroke, head injury, COVID or progressive neurological diseases. “Our rehabilitation staff is specially trained in cognitive care to provide these consultations, and if therapeutic intervention is recommended, this team of speech-language pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, medical social workers, and the individual’s primary care provider will customize a treatment plan. This plan will address any cognitive deficiencies through exercise and management strategies, community resources, and education to increase independence, confidence and performance,” said Hill.
On Tuesday, June 20 from noon to 1 p.m., Hill will host a free seminar called “Keeping a Healthy Brain” at the Blount Memorial Wellness Center at Springbrook, located at 220 Associates Blvd. in Alcoa. Space is limited for this event, so please call 865-980-7101 to register.
To learn more about brain health and cognitive decline prevention, or to take advantage of free cognitive screenings at East Tennessee Medical Group, call 865-238-6118.