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06/05/2019

Wolf Administration Encourages Pennsylvanians to Know Their Risk to Reduce Chance of Developing Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia

Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania departments of Health and Aging today encouraged all Pennsylvanians to educate themselves on the importance of brain health, and to learn about Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

“Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in Pennsylvania,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Alzheimer’s is one of many brain health issues that can affect individuals. It is so important that people are aware of these issues, and the signs and symptoms associated with them, so they can work to get the right support from their family and their health care providers.”

There are several brain health issues that can affect individuals. Some can be caused by brain damage from a traumatic brain injury, while others can be the result of a genetic issue. Some diseases, such as Parkinson’s, affect movement. Various types of dementia involve memory loss and a decline in intellectual functioning that is so severe that it interferes with someone’s ability to perform routine tasks. One of the most serious, and most common types of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

More than 400,000 individuals over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s in Pennsylvania, and that number is expected to increase by more than 14 percent by 2025.

There are a number of risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Some cannot be changed, while others can be influenced by our lifestyles. Risk factors for Alzheimer’s include:

  • Age – most individuals with the disease are 65 and older. After age 65, the risk of Alzheimer’s doubles every five years;

  • Family history – Those with a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s are most likely to develop the disease, and the risk increases if more than one family member has the disease;

  • Genetics – Individuals with Alzheimer’s risk genes are more likely to develop the disease; and

  • Additional factors – Additional factors are ones that we may have the ability to influence. These include preventing head injuries, having strong heart health, and aging healthy by eating a healthy diet, staying socially active, avoiding tobacco and excess alcohol and exercising both your body and your mind.

There are a number of signs of Alzheimer’s disease, ranging from mild to severe cases of the disease. Mild signs of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Memory loss;

  • Poor judgment leading to bad decisions;

  • Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative;

  • Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks;

  • Repeating questions;

  • Trouble handling money and paying bills;

  • Wandering and getting lost;

  • Losing things or misplacing them in odd places;

  • Mood and personality changes; and

  • Increased anxiety and/or aggression.

More severe signs of the disease will require additional supervision and important conversations with health care providers.

To help Pennsylvanians with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, the state has implemented the Pennsylvania’s Alzheimer’s State Plan Task Force. The task force’s goal is to implement and support the goals and recommendations from the state plan. Those with questions or looking for support can contact their local Area Agency on Aging.

“The Alzheimer’s State Plan Task Force is made up of members with personal, firsthand experience dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders,” said Acting Secretary of the Department of Aging Robert Torres. “This allows the task force to develop real, tangible recommendations to improve people’s lives. We are committed to ensuring that Pennsylvanians, their families, and caregivers who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder are being heard and supported through our efforts.”

There are a number of ways that you can work to maintain your brain health. Those include:

  • Mental stimulation, including reading, learning, word puzzles, art, etc.;

  • Physical exercise;

  • Good nutrition;

  • Maintain a healthy blood pressure;

  • Monitor blood sugar;

  • Monitor cholesterol levels;

  • Consider a low-dose aspirin (check with your doctor first);

  • Avoid tobacco;

  • Don’t abuse alcohol;

  • Care for emotions;

  • Prevent brain injuries; and

  • Build social networks.

More information on Alzheimer’s and brain health can be found on the Department of Health’s website at health.pa.gov or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nate Wardle, Health, 717-787-1783 or RA-DHPressOffice@pa.gov

Rachel Wrigley, Aging, 717-783-6210

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