Are you over the age of 65? Did a parent or grandparent have Alzheimer’s disease? Do you have heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol? Any of these things can put you at risk for Alzheimer’s.

Obviously, you can’t change your age or your genetic makeup, but there are still somethings you can do to reduce your risk for dementia. Here are some tips:

Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet can reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s by giving your brain the nutrients it needs. It can also reduce your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which are Alzheimer’s risk factors.

It seems the idea of what constitutes a “healthy diet” has evolved somewhat over time. You still need to eat a diet that’s low in fat and high in foods that are nutritious, like vegetables, whole grains, fruit, low-fat dairy, and lean protein (e.g., fish, poultry, beans, tofu, nuts, seeds). But the current theory on healthy eating is you should stay away from processed or packaged foods, and only eat foods that are found in nature. And stay away from fad diets. They’re not healthy, especially for seniors. The Harvard School of Public Health has developed a Healthy Eating Pyramid and a Healthy Eating Plate to help you best determine what you should be eating and in what quantities.

And here’s a local healthy eating tip. Kansas City has a ton of Farmers Markets where you can stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables. City Market is the first that comes to mind. But if that’s too far to drive Google “Overland Park Farmers Market” or “Prairie Village Farmers Market” (or whatever Kansas City area city you live in), and you’ll likely find a Farmers Market near you.

Exercise. Nobody wants to do it (well, most of us don’t), but everybody knows they should. But exercise improves the blood flow to your brain, reducing your risk for Alzheimer’s. It also helps prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for dementia. And here’s another reason why you should exercise, especially if you’re over the age of 65. It can improve your flexibility, balance, and stamina, thereby improving mobility as you age.

To maintain brain health, you’ll need to do a combination of aerobic exercises (e.g., walking, bicycling, swimming) and strength training (e.g., hand weights, push-ups, planks). For added balance and flexibility, you might also want to do some yoga or tai chi.

Keep diabetes in check. Diabetes can increase your risk for Alzheimer’s, so you’ll want to do everything you can to control yours (or to prevent diabetes) in order to reduce your dementia risk. Make sure you’re checking your blood sugar on a regular basis (as instructed by your doctor), as well as taking any insulin or other medications as prescribed. You also need to follow your diabetic diet plan (or the plan outlined above if you’re not currently diabetic) and exercise regularly (See paragraph on exercise above.). Also, if you’re eating a healthier diet and exercising, your medications may need to be adjusted. So let your doctor know what your plan is before you start so he or she can monitor your progress.

Challenge your brain. Whether or not brain games, crossword puzzles, or games like scrabble can actually ward off Alzheimer’s depends on who you ask (and there are reputable sources on both sides). But my 90-year-old aunt is the “Scrabble Queen” and my 87-year old dad does the New York Times crossword puzzle every day, and both are sharp as tacks. My mom, on the other hand, wasn’t big on reading, puzzles, or board games. And she died after a four-year battle with Alzheimer’s at the age of 82. So I’m sticking with the side that believes doing things that challenge your brain helps reduce your risk for dementia.

Keep learning. Take a class you’ve always wanted to take. Play trivia games with friends. Find a new DIY project and give it a try. Learning something new exercises your brain, which can help reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s.

Get help if you need it. If you’re having a tough time cooking healthy meals, exercising, and controlling your diabetes, or if you just want someone to help hone your cognitive skills, you may want to enlist the help of a Kansas City home care agency.

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Researchers have shown that brain games and other exercises that are designed to keep the mind sharp may help guard against Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. These brain exercises can also be fun, and you can do most of them from the comfort of your Kansas City home.

Here are some examples:

Board games. Board games are not only fun, but can also challenge the brain, which can help to prevent Alzheimer’s. Some good examples include Scrabble, Chess, Clue, Mahjong, and any type of trivia game.

Puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, Rubik’s cubes, and other types of puzzles exercise your brain, which can help ward off dementia.

Video games. Fast-paced video games have been shown to stimulate the brain and improve cognition.

Apps. Brain-training apps can help sharpen the mind, and may even help to prevent cognitive diseases. Examples include Lumosity, Elevate, Dakim, Fit Brains, and Cognifit.

Reading. Any type of reading stimulates the mind, which helps sustain memory and ward off Alzheimer’s.

Learning new things. Learning a new skill like a new language, a musical instrument, or how to use a computer, exercises your brain and can slow cognitive aging.

Doing something creative. Creative hobbies, such as painting, knitting, or craft activities can help preserve memory and cognition.

Keep in mind that a healthy brain is only one part of the equation. Exercise, healthy eating habits, and maintaining a social life are also important ways to reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s.

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Now that spring has (almost) arrived in Kansas City, you’re going to want to get outdoors and enjoy some of that beautiful weather! Here are some spring activities for Kansas City seniors. Depending on your level of independent activity, you may need your home care provider to help with some of these.

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The older you get, the more likely you’ll be prescribed multiple medications. And that can be dangerous if you’re not careful, especially if they’re being prescribed by more than one doctor (or if you’re filling them at multiple Kansas City pharmacies). Here are some tips that can keep you safe:

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Did you know what you eat can affect your chances of developing Alzheimer’s (or other form of dementia)? It’s true. There are foods that can actually improve your brain health.  And best of all, these foods can be found in just about any Kansas City grocery store.

Foods that Improve Brain Health

  1. Blueberries. Blueberries have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals (molecules that can potentially cause serious damage to cells, including brain cells).
  2. Fatty fish. Salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, and other types of fatty fish are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega 3s are essential to brain health. Some studies have shown they actually ward off age-related memory loss and protect the brain against Alzheimer’s.
  3. Avocados. Avocados contain monounsaturated fat, which is a good type of fat. It helps lower blood pressure and improves blood flow to the brain, ensuring that the brain gets enough oxygen.
  4. Turmeric. This spice contains curcumin, which has both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Some studies show that curcumin can delay or even reverse some age-related memory loss or help clear the amyloid plaques in some people with Alzheimer’s.
  5. Coffee & tea. There’s caffeine in both coffee and tea, which can make you feel more alert and improve your concentration. Coffee and tea are also both high in antioxidants.
  6. Nuts and seeds. There’s a lot of Vitamin E in nuts and seeds, which helps slow age-related cognitive decline. Walnuts, peanuts (or peanut butter), pumpkin seeds, and flaxseed also contain omega-3 fatty acids.
  7. Dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains both caffeine and antioxidant compounds called flavanols. The flavanols in dark chocolate have been shown to improve blood flow to the brain and to combat cell damage. They also protect the brain from inflammation.

The older you get, the more likely you are to get shingles, a painful rash that shows up on your side, face, or upper body. The shingles vaccine can help prevent you from getting it. It’s not 100% effective at stopping the virus, but if you do end up with shingles after having had the vaccine, your symptoms will be less severe.

Who Should Get the Shingles Vaccine

The shingles vaccine has been approved for anyone who’s over the age of 50, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends it be given to people age 60 and above.

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, and people who have never had chickenpox are supposedly immune. But the CDC says 99% of Americans over the age of 40 have had chickenpox at one time or another even if they don’t remember having it. So you should get the vaccine regardless.

If you’ve already had shingles, it’s still okay to be vaccinated (after your shingles rash has completely disappeared) to help prevent you from getting it again.

Also, if you’re a caregiver for someone who has Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, you might want to think about getting that person vaccinated as well.

Who Shouldn’t get the Shingles Vaccine

Here are some instances in which you should avoid getting a shingles vaccine:

  • If you’ve had a previous severe allergic reaction to gelatin, neomycin (an antibiotic), or any other component of the shingles vaccine. If you’re not sure, tell your doctor up front if you have any severe allergies.
  • If you have a condition that weakens your immune system, such as:
    • HIV or AIDS
    • Leaukemia
    • Lymphoma
    • Multiple Myeloma
    • Viral hepatitis
    • Tuberculosis (untreated)
  • If you’re taking drugs or doing other treatments that affect your immune system, such as chemotherapy, steroids, or radiation therapy
  • If you’re pregnant (or trying to get pregnant)

Where to Get the Shingles Shot

The easiest place to get a shingles shot is at your primary care physician’s office. If he or she doesn’t offer the vaccine, there are plenty of doctors in Kansas City who do. You can also get a shingles shot at Walgreens or CVS.

Shingles Vaccine Side Effects

Side effects of the shingles vaccine tend to be mild. The most common side effects are redness, pain, swelling, and itching at the injection site. Headaches are also fairly common.

Some people will develop a chickenpox-like rash near the injection site after receiving the shingles vaccine. If that happens, just cover the rash until it disappears.

It’s almost flu season again, and signs are popping up all over Kansas City, Overland Park, and Prairie Village reminding you it’s time for your annual flu shot. But how important is that flu shot really?

Flu shots are the number one method of preventing the flu. And it turns out the flu can be pretty dangerous if you’re over the age of 65. Every year in the U.S., as many as 700,000 people end up in the hospital from the flu and related complications. Most of those people are seniors. That’s because as you age, your immune system gets weaker, making it more difficult for you to fight off infection.

What About Caregivers?

If you’re caring for someone who’s over the age of 65, you also need to get an annual flu shot. If you don’t and you get sick, you’re putting that person at risk even if he or she has been immunized.

And if you’re charged with caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, it’s important to make sure that person gets a flu shot, too.

What if the Flu Shot Makes Me Sick?

It seems a lot of people are still concerned about getting the flu from a flu shot, but that’s simply not possible. The reason being that the flu vaccine is made from an “inactivated” virus, which means there’s no way it can make you sick.

Then why do some people get sick right after they get a flu shot? Flu shots don’t start working until a week or two after you get them. So if you get a flu shot and end up with the flu a few days later, the shot hadn’t yet had time to become effective. So you actually caught the virus somewhere else. That’s why it’s important to get your flu shot early. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s okay to get the shot as soon as the vaccine becomes available, and it’s best to get it by the end of October. But you shouldn’t skip it if you happen to miss the October deadline. Even though flu season begins in early October, it lasts throughout the winter, and sometimes even into spring.

Where Can I get a Flu Shot?

To get your flu shot, make an appointment with your home care nurse or doctor’s office. You can also get one at most CVS or Walgreens stores. They normally posts signs out front to let you know when the vaccine is available.

The last time you dropped by your mom’s house in Kansas City, did you notice an unpleasant odor? And finally realize it was coming from her? Unfortunately, elderly people don’t always bathe as often as they should. There are a number of reasons why. For example, changing clothes can be difficult. Or there could be a fear of falling in the tub. Or they may just not remember they didn’t do it. Here are some things you can do to help if your mom (or dad) has stopped bathing.

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