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Challenging brains to stop Alzheimer’s

An initiative designed to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, its risk factors and preventive measures amongst working-aged Australians has shown early signs of success.

Your Brain Matters has been trialled by Alzheimer’s Australia (Vic) in workplaces around the state in a bid to educate those at risk of the disease about how to maximise their brain health.

Alzheimer’s Australia carried out assessments at 40 sessions delivered free in a range of workplace settings. The bulk of participants, who attended voluntarily, were aged 40 or over.

The interactive sessions provided contextual information, including what remained to be understood about the disease. They also focused on the many lifestyle factors people could control. These include diet, exercise, heart health and the many different types of activities that could help keep brains active and healthy.

Alzheimer’s Australia (Vic) project officer Kelly Bryden said it was important to remember to challenge the brain.

“For example, you could try learning a new instrument rather than simply focusing on one you can already play,” she said. “It is important to make things progressively more complicated or difficult so that it remains challenging.”

Bryden said social activities were also good, especially if they incorporated physical activity.

One group of participants from a session, who were later surveyed, said they had taken up medieval sword fighting. Horse riding and camping were also mentioned as good examples of activities with positive mentally challenging and physically demanding aspects.

Participants were also encouraged to use an app developed by Alzheimer’s Australia that allowed them to log their diet, exercise and other relevant activities, as well as play mind games.

Discussing the early findings of the program at the recent National Dementia Congress in Melbourne, Bryden said the feedback from participants in the sessions had been hugely positive – 93 per cent of those surveyed responded that they had increased their knowledge of the disease.

Bryant and her colleagues also found that 90 per cent of participants intended to make lifestyle changes in the near future, compared with just 36 per cent of a control group that had not attended any sessions.

One month on, Bryden added, 64 per cent of respondents reported having made some lifestyle change.

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