New Grant Supports Innovative Brain Health Initiative

The Winter Park Health Foundation has approved a two-year, $185,000 grant to the Alzheimer’s Association to support the launch of an innovative initiative designed to educate Central Floridians of all ages that it is never too early or late to protect their brains.

Due to begin July 1, 2012, the project has three primary goals: to make people aware of the elements of brain health; to spread the word about the importance of being brain healthy; and, to get people committed to and actively involved in brain healthy practices.

“A critical component of our mission is to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health”, said Kay Redington, CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Central and North Florida Chapter, “We are so excited to take the lead with this new program and believe it could be a pilot for brain health initiatives across the country.”

Brain health is an issue of increasing importance as the number of those with Alzheimer’s disease grows. In 2011, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs County and State Profiles indicated Orange County had 13,042 cases of probable Alzheimer’s disease.

Meanwhile, there are 450,000 persons across Florida with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the 2012 Alzheimer’s Association “Disease Facts and Figures.”

While the greatest risk factor of the disease is age, current research shows the disease starts long before symptoms begin to appear making it crucial to impress upon people early in life that it is never too early to begin protecting their brain and it should be protected throughout life.

This is because research is disproving the long held belief that the brain is hard- ired and unable to change or grow new neurons. It is showing the brain has plasticity and its function is affected and shaped by environmental input.

The two-year program will include distribution of educational materials and offering seminars to diverse audiences of all ages. In addition, a brain health website will be created where the public can go to learn more about brain health, find book reviews, brain healthy activities and the latest brain research.

The organizations, Think Creative, Flight of Ideas and Compass Research will be working closely with the Alzheimer’s Association on this endeavor.