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Program helps to keep the mind fit

Monday, March 6, 2006

SIKESTON -- To ensure the mind isn't the first thing to go, Senior Lifestyles at Missouri Delta Medical Center is hosting a free program to help Southeast Missouri residents learn how to keep their minds fit.

The St. Louis Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association will present the educational program called "Maintain Your Brain" from 7-8 p.m. March 9 at Missouri Delta Medical Center in Sikeston.

"What's different about 'Maintain Your Brain' is it's for everyone," said Rebekah Schnurbusch of MDMC's Senior Lifestyles. "All of the other programs are usually geared to the person with Alzheimer's and their loved ones."

While MDMC often conducts memory screenings and monthly Alzheimer's support group meetings, the St. Louis Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association presents programs only about once or twice a year at the Sikeston hospital, Schnurbusch noted.

Next week's program will offer tips, how-to information and inspiration for getting brain-healthy, as well as detail the "Ten Ways to Maintain Your Brain." The health of a person's brain plays a critical role in almost everything they do -- thinking, feeling, remembering, working, playing and even sleeping, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

"There are a number of things you can do to help keep your brain healthier as you age," said Jennifer Phillips, volunteer and community education coordinator of the Alzheimer's Association-St. Louis Chapter.

"Increasing evidence shows that healthy lifestyle habits, such as being heart smart, eating a brain-healthy diet, staying physically fit and mentally active and staying socially involved contribute to healthier aging and may also decrease your risk for Alzheimer's," Phillips said.

Among ways to "maintain the brain" are to eat less fat and more antioxidant-

rich foods; do something every day to prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke -- all of which can increase the risk of Alzheimer's; and keep the brain active by reading, writing, playing games, learning new things or doing crossword puzzles. Engaging in these activities increases the brain's vitality and builds reserves of brain cells and connections.

"And these are all good tips for healthy living any way," Schnurbusch pointed out.

Any age can attend the program and learn more about their own brain health, said Dorothy Hutchinson-Gross, communications coordinator for St. Louis Chapter.

"A lot more of the baby boomers and more and more people in their late 30s and 40s are getting conscious that they're getting older and are making sure to take care of themselves both physically and mentally," Hutchinson-Gross said.

No matter what type of Alzheimer's education program, the main issue almost always is the importance of early diagnosis, Schnurbusch said.

"If you know anyone who has memory loss, they should get tested because there are medications that can slow down the disease," Schnurbusch said, adding MDMC will offer a memory screening April 20.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common admitting diagnosis at MDMC's Senior Lifestyles, Schnurbusch said. One in 10 Americans has a family member with Alzheimer's and one in three knows someone with the disease, she pointed out.

"There are so many highs and lows with Alzheimer's. You get frustrated and mad and there's denial, just like any other illness," said Kelly Henry, Alzheimer's care unit director at Beverly Healthcare in New Madrid.

But there is support out there for those with the illness, both Henry and Schnurbusch said. Alzheimer's support group meetings are available in Scott, Mississippi and New Madrid counties.

Beverly Healthcare in New Madrid has offered a support group for Alzheimer's patients and their families over the past four years. The group meets the third Monday of each month.

"It gives them a good opportunity to voice their concerns," Henry said about Alzheimer's patients and families. "The main thing my support group tells me about having the group is it helps just knowing someone else is going through exactly what they're going through," Henry said.

To sign up for the "Maintain Your Brain" class, contact the Alzheimer's Association at 1-800-980-9080.