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KUSA - "What's good for your heart is also good for your brain" is the message from the Alzheimer's Association.

They say it's especially true for Hispanics and African-Americans. According to the Alzheimer's Association's 2013 Facts and Figures report, African-Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Hispanics are one and a half times more likely.

African-Americans also have a higher risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other forms of heart disease. Studies have shown that those factors can also increase your risk for Alzheimer's.

"Studies indicate that by keeping your brain active while managing other conditions that affect your heart like high blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and diabetes you may be successful in impacting the onset of Alzheimer's disease. We can all do a better job of paying attention to our heart health as a way to maintain a healthy brain," said Francis Brown, Alzheimer's Association board member and chair of the African American Outreach Committee.

African-Americans are also less likely to have an Alzheimer's diagnosis. When they are diagnosed, the Alzheimer's Association says African-Americans and Hispanics are typically in the later stages of the disease, when they are more cognitively and physically impaired.

The Alzheimer's Association says the key to treating someone with this disease is recognizing it early. They have identified 10 warning signs:

  1. Memory changes that disrupt daily life - Not knowing people's names or where the car is parked
  2. Challenges planning and solving problems - History as an accountant/bookkeeper, now unable to balance a checkbook or dial the phone
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks - Can't make a pot of coffee or do the laundry
  4. Confusion with time and place - Don't know it's nighttime, the season or own home address
  5. Trouble understanding spatial relationships or visual images - Dark tiles are thought to be holes in the floor, often trip over curbs
  6. New problems with speaking or writing - Can't find the word for familiar objects instead substitute description
  7. Misplace things in unusual places and unable to retrace steps - Find purse in the fridge, car keys in the microwave oven
  8. Decreased or poor judgment - Get easily lost driving, don't look before walking onto a busy street, forget a coat in the winter, write large checks to strangers
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities - Quit weekly bowling league or bridge group and become isolated
  10. Changes in mood or personality - Normally pleasant, now grumpy or always angry

While Alzheimer's can't be prevented, there are a few steps you can take to keep your brain healthier as you age:

  • Adopt a brain healthy diet-low fat, high antioxidants, high omega-3
  • Exercise your brain with puzzles, Sudoku, math, balancing your checkbook, socializing
  • Stay physically fit
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Maintain a normal blood pressure
  • Reduce your risk for stroke
  • Watch your sugar levels
  • Reduce your risk for diabetes
  • Manage your stress and find effective ways to relax and regroup
  • Promote good circulation

The Alzheimer's Association of Colorado provides counseling, education, support and a 24-hour bilingual Helpline at no cost to families across Colorado. Reach out for help and support by calling 1-800-272-3900 or go online to www.alz.org.

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