Healthy brain initiatives to combat dementia


DAYTON — The Alzheimer’s Association is leading a two-pronged approach to educate agencies and individuals about the importance of brain health.

This month, the Association, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, launched a new Healthy Brain Initiative, 2018-2023 Road Map, which provides an action agenda for state and local public health organizations to address Alzheimer’s. The set of strategies are meant to improve the future of all communities impacted by dementia because the disease can span decades. It is built on scientific research and best practices.

That research is evolving because advancements in scientific research show that healthy behaviors, which have been shown to prevent cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, may also reduce the risk for cognitive decline and possibly dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80 percent of dementia cases.

“This new research is opening up new opportunities to determine if lifestyle interventions can protect cognitive function in older adults and then actually reduce one’s risk of dementia, “ said Eric VanVlymen, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Miami Valley Chapter and Director of Region 10, which includes Ohio. “As the world’s largest non-profit funder of research concerning Alzheimer’s disease, we are aggressively searching for scientific efforts that improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.”

The Healthy Brain Initiative Road Map contains 25 actions for public health agencies that include educating the public about brain health and cognitive aging to developing policies and partnerships that ensure that the best available science about health, cognitive impairment and dementia caregiving are incorporated into training for current and future public health workforces.

Robert Egge, Alzheimer’s Association Chief Public Policy Officer, said, “The Road Map provides the public health community with concrete steps to act quickly and strategically to stimulate needed changes in policies, systems and environments.”

In Ohio, this is extremely important because Ohio is one of four states without an official state plan to address the growing health crisis presented by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and the only state without a formal process to create such a plan. VanVlymen said the Miami Valley Chapter and all the other Ohio chapters are working collaboratively with members of the state legislature to introduce legislation in Ohio to start a formal process to get to an official plan of action.

In Ohio, 220,000 individuals are currently living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. In the Miami Valley, there are 30,000 people. There are actions individuals can take to enhance their brain health. This December, the Alzheimer’s Association, Miami Valley Chapter will hold a community program on “Healthy Living for your Brain and Body.” The event at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 5, will be held at the Troy-Miami County Library, 419 W. Main St., Troy. Participants will learn about research in the areas of diet and nutrition, exercise and cognitive activity and about how to incorporate those recommendations into a plan for healthy aging.