Northern Light Acadia Hospital invites the public to learn about hopeful research happening right here in Maine and how they can become involved.
BANGOR — September is World Alzheimer’s Month – and Sept. 21 of each year is officially designated World Alzheimer’s Day – a time to elevate awareness about dementia and Alzheimer’s, and advocate for more research and resources to improve patients’ quality of life, and perhaps someday, even find a cure.
In Maine, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death, and 29,000 seniors in our state are currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related disorder. As Maine’s population – the oldest in the nation – continues to age, this number is expected to increase by nearly 21 percent to 35,000 by the year 2025.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or for most other causes of dementia at the moment, the problems associated with dementia such as restlessness and depression can be treated. It may also be possible, especially in the early stages of the disease, to improve memory with medication.
Thanks to research, scientists and doctors have made real strides in understanding dementia-related diseases. Northern Light Acadia Hospital’s Mood & Memory Clinic has developed a list of five tips for those concerned about developing dementia, or who may have already received a diagnosis, to hold back progression of the disease:
- Eat healthy food. Eat five or six servings of fruits and vegetables every day, limit animal fat intake, and rely more on vegetable oils. Also, limit sweets. Following a Mediterranean style-diet is one of the most well-studied approaches to maintaining brain (and heart!) health.
- Stay physically active. Physical activity has a profound effect on the brain. The target is 150 minutes of vigorous activity (that increases heart and breath rate) per week (i.e. averaging 30 minutes 5 days per week). But research tells us that even less than that does a lot of good.
- Stay mentally active. Continue to learn new skills, try new things, read, do puzzles, computer games, paint, draw, and continue working if you are able and enjoy it!
- Stay socially engaged. Spending too much time alone can contribute to depression and cognitive problems. Try to be around people you enjoy several times a week.
- Get seven or eight hours of sleep most nights.
“Research of and caring for those with dementia-related disorders is a particularly poignant one, as these conditions affect the whole family,” says Cliff Singer, MD, DFAPA, AGSF, director, Northern Light Mood and Memory Care. “My advice to everyone is: if you’re concerned about your memory or that of someone you care about, you should first speak with your primary care physician. There are a lot of things other than Alzheimer’s disease that may be causing the problem, many of them easily treatable. And if a referral for further evaluation is needed, Acadia Hospital’s Mood and Memory team is here to help.”
Find Support – Give Support
Northern Light Acadia Hospital will begin offering two new therapy groups this fall through its outpatient services – one for caregivers of a person with a diagnosis of dementia and one for people with diagnosis – with neuropsychologist Caroline Hollnagel, Ph.D. Both will be offered virtually via Zoom. Call 207-973-6100 for more information.
Volunteers from across Maine are encouraged to join Acadia Hospital’s healthy brain interest group and research registry, MAINAH – Maine Initiative for Neurologic Aging & Health. Sign up and learn more at northernlighthealth.org/MAINAH.
Find an Alzheimer’s fundraiser in your area, such as a 5K walk, and get out there! There will be six walks in Maine this fall, starting this weekend, with the Bangor walk scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1. Go to alz.org to learn more.
To find out more about Northern Light Acadia Hospital’s Mood and Memory Care program, northernlighthealth.org/Mood-and-Memory.