Experts at Brand New Day a Medicare Advantage Plan that offers a program for Alzheimer’s patients called Bridges say that by making some lifestyle changes now, the disease can be staved off for a period even if there is a family history of it. The news comes in time for National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in June. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and is characterized by memory loss and other cognitive disabilities that interfere with patients’ lives on an escalating scale, says James Pratty, M.D., Director of Behavioral Health for Brand New Day.
“While there is currently no cure for this progressive disease, there are medications available that can temporarily reduce the symptoms and support is available for patients and their families so they can cope with everyday life,” says Pratty, who treats Alzheimer’s patients in the Bridges Program. “What many people don’t know is that there are lifestyle adjustments they can embrace to delay the onset of the disease even if they come from a family with a long line of Alzheimer’s sufferers.”
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation, age is the biggest risk factor, and most patients are 65+ though there are frequent diagnoses of early-onset Alzheimer’s. The disease gradually worsens over several years beginning with occasional loss of memory eventually progressing to the point where individuals lose their ability to carry on conversations or respond to their environment. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives 4 to 8 years after diagnosis, though some have lived with it for 20 years.
Pratty says that there are steps that can be taken now to delay the onset or minimize the symptoms. He emphasizes exercising both aerobically (e.g., jogging, running, swimming, bicycling) and strength training using weights or fitness equipment designed for such purpose. Adopting a Mediterranean diet rich in whole grains, fresh fish, veggies, fruit, and proteins and lowering your intake of starches (i.e., bread, pasta, baked goods, etc.), alcohol, fatty foods, processed meats, and desserts. Ceasing smoking will also help delay or minimize onset.
Benefits are found in engaging in mentally and socially stimulating activities. Get together with friends, learn to play an instrument, take art classes, play games and cards, do crossword puzzles, read, keep a diary, or develop a family history using 23 & Me ancestry tools for guidance and as a means of potentially communicating with long-lost relatives.
Brand New Day works with independent brokers throughout the state and can arrange for an in-person appointment for those wanting to review the plans in their area. Brand New Day is a subsidiary of Bright HealthCare and Bright Health Group. For more information about the Brand New Day Medicare Advantage plans, call (866) 255-4795, TTY 711 and visit www.BNDHMO.com.
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Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No TIMES OF SURAT journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.