Promoting Brain Health

Alzheimer's Disease in Vermont

Alzheimer’s is recognized as a chronic disease and a public health priority. It affects 13,000 Vermonters and is the state’s 6th leading cause of death. Vermont has the 6th highest Alzheimer’s death rate in the U.S. It takes a toll on individuals affected by the disease and their families, especially the 30,000 caregivers in our state. For more information check out this fact sheet from the Alzheimer's Assocation. 

The Governor’s Commission on Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders was established in 1991 to take the lead on public health policy and coordination to identify and address the needs of those with Alzheimer’s and related disorders, and their caregivers and families. The Health Department participates on the Commission and works to raise awareness about the impact of the disease and ways Vermonters can reduce their risk for dementia through healthy lifestyle choices.

2017 Report to the Legislature

Vermont has a new Action Plan on Alzheimer’s and Healthy Aging 2018-2019. This plan reflects a collaboration between the Department of Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living and the Health Department to advance awareness and support of Alzheimer’s and healthy aging in Vermont. Another resource is the State Plan on Dementia that outlines strategies and resources to address its impact on Vermonters. 

If you are concerned about a loved one or yourself – ask your health care provider to perform a brief assessment. Early screening gives more time for families to plan next steps and access helpful resources and supports. Cognitive screening is included in Medicare’s annual Wellness Visit. Medicare also offers a new benefit for dementia planning support. 

Free counseling with clinicians – and assistance with linking to local resources – is available 24/7 through the Alzheimer’s Association and its Vermont Chapter.
Call 800-272-3900

What is Alzheimers? 

Our brains age along with the rest of our bodies, and our abilities naturally change with age. T​his aging process is different from the disease process associated with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is not a part of normal aging. 

Dementia is a general term used to describe a decline in cognitive functioning. Findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine using the longstanding Framingham Heart Study suggest that dementia rates in the United States are dropping. This good news may be due to population reductions in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, accounting for more than 70% of dementia diagnoses. Other forms of dementia include Vascular dementia, Lewy Bodies, and Frontotemporal dementia among others. Find more information about Alzheimer's disease – National Institutes of Health

According to the Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org), Alzheimer’s is a chronic and progressive disease, with symptoms of memory loss and impaired mental and physical capacity worsening over time. In its early stages, memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer's, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation, take care of daily living tasks, and respond to their environment. Know the 10 signs to address early and get help

Alzheimer's disease is the most expensive disease in our country.

Healthy Body, Healthy Brain

Numerous studies have found that people with diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes, have a lower level of cognitive function and are at a higher risk for dementia than individuals without diabetes. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there is evidence that a healthy lifestyle that reduces risk from heart disease and diabetes may also help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Behaviors such as healthy eating, exercise, and stress management may help to protect the brain like they do the heart. Diets that focus on green leafy and other vegetables, nuts, fruits (especially berries), legumes and fish may reduce your risk. Options include the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the newer MIND diet (Mediterranean DASH Intervention for Neurogenerative Delay). Sound nutrition and regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure.  

Limit saturated fats, eat whole grains, fruits, fish and vegetables. Walking and other simple exercises offer health benefits. The Alzheimer’s Association of Vermont offers a number of courses online, for free. Topics include Healthy Living for your Brain and Body: Tips from the Latest Research.

It’s never too late to adopt healthy lifestyle habits that reduce the risk of cognitive decline. For more information from the Alzheimer's Association (alz.org): 10 Ways to Love Your Brain

As outlined in this brief Smoking and Brain Health , smoking impacts brain health and increases the risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Within eight hours of quitting, the body’s oxygen levels are back to normal.

For free quit resources for you and your family: www.802Quits.org

The stress of caring for and living with a person who has Alzheimer’s can cause poor health and depression for the caregiver and family members. Vermont’s Area Agencies on Aging have created regional resource guides to help support caregivers and family members.

To find out more, go to Alz.org and review its community resources.