Power up your brain, build cognition, stretch your thinking, energize your mind during the month of June as part of National Brain Health Awareness. There are four essential ingredients to a healthy brain: eating nutritious, fresh food; exercising every day; socializing with family and friends; and kicking your mind into action by solving puzzles, untangling the answers to complicated problems and questions, and learning something new and different like a foreign language, a craft, or a musical instrument. All of this is good for your brain, good for your heart, and good for you!

Across the country projects are perking. In my town we are posting purple signs and encouraging folks to don a splash of it. With no cure, no prevention, and no way to slow this monster, we all need to stand up and fight this disease. Possessing knowledge, being aware of avenues for assistance, and encouraging Congress to add funding for research are easy ways for you to support this cause. With 5.6 million Americans diagnosed with this disease, it's time for a cure. Living longer means Alzheimer's disease has a greater opportunity to manifest itself. We all need to have the best and most useful information available.

June 21st is the Longest Day of the Year and is also the day we honor caregivers of every variety. Whether it is a loved one with dementia, cancer, the flu, or a broken leg, whether it is a small child, a teenager, or an aged relative, caregivers serve those in need 24/7, often forgetting or not having enough time to take good care of themselves. Take time on this day and beyond to express thanks and offer a helping hand. Weaving purple, the symbolic color for Alzheimer's disease, sends the message that you care. Spend the day engrossed in activities that you love with people who bring you joy and contentment. Play cards, golf, picnic, paint, crochet, or participate in any brain-activating endeavor from sunup to sundown to pay tribute to these dedicated individuals. Every community has special ways to show that people matter by speaking friendly words and wearing gracious smiles.

To tell the truth, some research states that brain game and activities have little effect on brain health, however, I do know that idle, lonely minds destroy a happy existence. Other research, fortunately, relates that complex undertakings are good for increasing connections as dendrite fire and new synapses create links and correlations. That is one reason that playing a musical instrument like the piano or harmonica is so beneficial. With both you must read as you follow notes and symbols and listen for the correct tones. Pianists move fingers across the keys as they coordinate left and right hands with notes. The harmonica player slides the instrument across the lips as s / he blows out for one note and sucks in for another. These multifaceted requirements have the potential to enrich the brain.

The Alzheimer's Awareness campaign includes educating law enforcement and first responders about approaching and assisting someone with Alzheimer's or other dementias. Kind, soothing words, gentle voice, and calmness are essential behaviors. Aggressive tactics are likely to produce fear, angry outbursts, and hostility. A friend used this tender technique when she discovered an older lady parked in her driveway. When she asked the driver if she needed help, the confused lady stated that she was lost and searching for a hair stylist with a shop on a corner. Although the shop was miles away, this slight hint provided sufficient critical information to locate the business, call to see if they were expecting this client, and to insure them that she was on her way. The lady insisted on driving herself (not necessarily a good idea but there is no choice as individual rights trump helpful assistance). She followed my friend to her appointment where she was welcomed although they had no background information on her either. Left wondering if she had chosen the correct path, I reassured her she had. Without police intervention and with no family members or phone numbers as guidance, she attended to a frightened being and led her to safety. Kindness makes a wonderful difference. Happy Brain Health to You!