New York State Department of Health Recognizes Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month

Department Encourages Public to Protect Brain Health Through Healthy Lifestyle Choices

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 22, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health recognizes Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month this June, and encourages New Yorkers to make healthy lifestyle choices that can improve their overall brain health and may reduce their risk of developing dementia. The Department is also sharing resources for those affected by Alzheimer's Disease.

"Although more research is needed, we do know that many of the steps taken to protect the heart, may also protect the brain, such as a healthy diet and regular exercise" State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Taking these healthy steps can improve overall brain health and may even reduce the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer's Disease, so we're encouraging people to give themselves the best chance to live a healthy life filled with cherished memories."

In addition to diet and exercise, brain health may also be protected by reducing high blood pressure, managing diabetes and obesity, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, and getting sufficient sleep. It is also important for people to engage in social activities and keep their minds active, and protect their brains from physical injury by wearing seat belts and helmets.

Alzheimer's Disease and related dementias (ADRD) are not normal parts of aging. Dementia is a condition that can be caused by many different diseases, with Alzheimer's Disease being the most common cause. Alzheimer's Disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases. It is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer's disease is not only about memory loss; those with the disease also experience changes in other cognitive abilities, such as reasoning, judgement, language, and attention.

In the early stages of Alzheimer´s Disease, memory loss is mild, but in its late-stage, individuals lose the ability to complete daily tasks, carry on a conversation, and respond to their environment. Those with Alzheimer´s disease live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable. However, depending on age and other health conditions, survival can range from four to 20 years.

Some medical conditions can present with changes in memory and cognition that can be confused with dementia. For this reason, the Department encourages those experiencing changes in memory or thinking ability to talk with their primary care provider. A comprehensive physical assessment should look for and "rule out" treatable conditions such as nutritional imbalances, acute infections, or the presence of other treatable brain pathologies such as a tumor.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are more than six million Americans in the United States living with ADRD. In 2020, there were an estimated 410,000 people ages 65 and older living with ADRD in New York State, with that number projected to increase 12.2% to 460,000 by 2025.

There are disparities associated with ADRD development among specific racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. African Americans are twice as likely to develop ADRD compared to white people, and Hispanics one-and-a-half times more likely.

"The Office of Aging and Long Term Care is dedicated to actively supporting New Yorkers with Alzheimer's Disease and other dementias," Department of Health Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Aging and Long Term Care Adam Herbst, Esq. said. "New York State is committed to providing essential resources, while ensuring that all residents are well-informed about brain protecting measures. Additionally, the Department of Health extends its assistance to caregivers, recognizing the significant impact that ADRD can have on individuals and their families."

Alzheimer's care currently costs the health care system in the US an estimated $345 billion. That cost does not include the additional care provided by more than 11 million caregivers of someone living with ADRD. This unpaid care has been valued at $340 billion. In New York State, more than 540,000 caregivers provided 884 million hours of unpaid care in 2022, valued at $19 billion.

Through the Alzheimer's Disease Caregiver Support Initiative, New York State invests more than $26 million annually for critical services and support for persons living with ADRD and their caregivers statewide.

Under the Alzheimer's Disease Caregiver Support Initiative, New York funds 10 Centers of Excellence for Alzheimer's Disease, 11 Regional Caregiver Support Initiative programs and the one statewide Alzheimer's Disease Community Assistance Program (AlzCAP). Collectively, these initiatives provide:

  • early detection and diagnosis
  • medical provider training
  • consultations and assessments
  • caregiver education
  • caregiver support and engagements activities
  • respite
  • 24-hour Helpline access
  • community awareness and outreach to and engagement with underserved communities

The Department's Alzheimer's Disease Program website provides a wealth of resources on brain health and for individuals impacted by Alzheimer's Disease and other forms of dementias, including services available to individuals living with ADRD and their caregivers.