Brain health is at the top of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Indiana Chapter’s community action plan during June. 

Who is being urged to pay attention? Everyone, says Laura Forbes, the association’s communications director. 

Why? Well, duh, it’s been a stressful year, so unless you’ve been living under a proverbial rock, the rest of us have been in brain-overdrive, coping, managing, and yes, willing our brains to find the sunny side of what else possibly can go wrong.  

The Alzheimer's Association is offering virtual programs to stay brain-healthy and access the best information surrounding diseases of the brain. Registration is free and available at:

alz.org/indiana or by calling the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.

The June 15 interactive program, Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body, features activities to help us on several platforms, from assessing our brain functioning levels with everyday activities, to finding the best ways that “dementia caregivers  can care for themselves after an extremely difficult year,” Forbes says. Going forward, it’s essential for caregivers to develop strategies to build a support network for themselves. Avoiding burnout is a positive, proactive plan of action. 

The June 29 program is titled Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Mythbusters Edition. Forbes underscores the importance of having factual data. It’s essential to “explore and debunk some of the most common [and under the radar] inaccuracies surrounding the disease,” Forbes says.  

For other virtual Alzheimer’s Association virtual programs on coping with and understanding Alzheimer’s and dementia, click here.

It just so happened that my annual physical, delayed from a year ago, came on the day of my assignment to bring attention to brain health, so I reached out to Dr. Charles Hodges, a family medicine specialist at the Broad Ripple Ascension Medical Group. Dr. Hodges supplied me with a hefty pile of reading material to clarify the full scope of building and maintaining brain health, what we need to know about the handful of brain-related diseases; Alzheimer’s is what we hear most about. 

The bottom line for Dr. Hodges is to engage in a healthful lifestyle from the very start of life. Failing that, he urges getting smart about good health priorities now. Everything about how we function is connected. Mental well-being is fueled by what we eat, most often correlating to how well we are serving every other part of our body to function at peak performance — including attitude. Taking the slogan “you are what you eat” one step further, we’re equally framed by this truism: “what you think, you are.” 

We don’t literally eat our words, but our use of words frames our way of life and dictates what we do. This parallels with the advice Laura Forbes itemized in her news release: Be positive, proactive, involved: Do good. Here it is, edited into the proverbial 1,000-words [sans box top]: 

Overall, follow the simple triad:

Exercise regularly — Regular cardiovascular exercise helps increase blood flow to the body and brain, and there is strong evidence that regular physical activity is linked to better memory and thinking.

Maintain a heart-healthy diet — Stick to a meal schedule full of fruits and vegetables to ensure a well-balanced diet. A diagram of what nutritiously fits on a nine-inch plate parses all the food groups into eye-pleasing portions. 

Stay socially and mentally active — Meaningful social engagement may support cognitive health, so stay connected with friends and family. Engage your mind by doing activities that stump you, like completing a jigsaw puzzle or playing strategy games. Or challenge yourself further by learning a new language or musical instrument.

And then there are the essentials growing from the experience of a year of COVID-19:

Return to Normal at Your Own Pace — don’t feel pressured to jump into activities or head to places you’re not comfortable with.

Help Others — There is evidence to suggest that helping others during the pandemic may not only make you feel better, but it may be good for you as well. Research shows that helping others in a crisis can be an effective way to alleviate stress and anxiety. Volunteer in your community, run errands or deliver meals to a home-bound senior or donate to a favorite cause, such as supporting participants in the Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day event on June 20.

Unplug and Disconnect — Technology has dominated our daily lives during the pandemic like never before. While technology has kept us connected through COVID-19, it has also created fatigue for many Americans. Experts warn that excessive stimulation from our phones, computers, social media sources, and news reports can add to our heightened anxiety levels. Experts advise setting limits on your screen time to avoid technology overload, avoid carrying your phone everywhere, and disconnect from digital devices at bedtime.

Control Your Stress Before it Controls You — In small doses, stress teaches the brain how to respond in healthy ways to the unexpected, inconvenient or unpleasant realities of daily life. However, prolonged or repeated stress can wear down and damage the brain, leading to serious health problems, including depression, anxiety disorders, memory loss, and increased risk for dementia.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been an overwhelming time for all of us,” summarized Stephanie Laskey, program director for Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter. “It’s important for people to know there are steps we can take to lessen the stress and anxiety we might be feeling. It can be easy to take brain health for granted, but now more than ever, it’s a good idea to make it a priority.”

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