seventy years…

…old. Trump is an old man who is showing his age.

Nearing seventy myself, I can speak with some authority on the dilemma of old-age. It’s not only a daily struggle to keep everything on my body from “going south,” it’s equally challenging to keep my mind from closing in on itself.

What we seem to be witnessing in warp speed is Trump’s mental capabilities disintegrating right before our eyes. His campaign rhetoric gave us clues as to his mental state, but very few took him at his word. We were told by his surrogates, like Kelly-Anne Conway, that his supporters knew not to take their candidate literally. On January 9, she advised us to “Judge Trump by what’s in his heart, not what comes out of his mouth.”

Trump has shown his heart to have all but stopped beating.

This president has split America to its core as Lyndon Johnson did during the Vietnam War. Folks, especially vets and their families, are still suffering the psychological, physical and economic effects of that political fiasco. Trump is on the path to paying a steep price for warring against Americans who refuse to engage in his brand of politics…”an eye for an eye.”

We’ve all known someone with pent up hostility and anger toward those who have crossed them. The elderly are more likely to have accumulated decades of such riffs. If these are not addressed and resolved in a timely manner, then the anger and determination to “get even” is that much greater.

The flip side to this dilemma is that those who remain in good standing will reap the rewards. This encourages all kinds of “hangers-on.” Relatives, self promoting crack-pots, wily master-minds, and perpetual money-grubbers. Of course there are the well-intentioned loyalists who are unable to back out of the situation in which they find themselves. One that further entraps them the longer they commit themselves to the Mad Hatter in the midst of a firestorm of his, and their, creation.

Having lived in Trump Tower most of his adult life, neither the president nor his family know the plight of real people. Unfortunately, this did not dissuade voters from deciding that a billionaire who regularly stiffed ordinary folks like themselves, should wield immeasurable power over their lives in big and small ways.

Trump has bragged about sleeping 4 hours or less each night. Scientific evidence supports the fact that sleep deprivation has a devastating effect on persons who regularly get less than 7 hours of sleep each night. Without the optimum period of time within which to rest and recuperate, our bodies begin to lose the battle against diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. There’s only so much our bodies can do when running on “empty.”

While seventy-year-old Trump’s finger hovers over the nuclear button, he has already detonated his own mental and physical implosion. The executive orders he has executed with lightning speed this week, have brought a volcanic eruption of Americans rising up in protest. He may have won the electoral votes, but only a week into his presidency, Trump is losing more and more of those he swore to lead.

It might be different were Trump winding down his presidency, but that’s not the case. Instead, we must face at least 4 years of increasing senility. Trump’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction; his inability to move beyond past transgressions; his demand for absolute loyalty; his need to silence any opposition; his insatiable appetite for approval.

Were the Trump family dealing with their patriarch on their own turf, celebrating his “ups” while softening the impact of his “downs” the billionaire would have been left to his own devices. His impact would’ve been minimal, perhaps affecting only a segment of the community. As president of the most powerful country in the world, however, Trump’s impact is global.

Trump has the potential to be the greatest catastrophe America has ever seen. Singlehandedly, he is undoing the very fabric of our country. With the stroke of a pen and an off-hand remark this president has thrown a bag over the Statue of Liberty. For as long as Trump presides over our country, these words ring hollow…

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As I grow older, 68 this year, I can only wonder at Trump’s increasing older age. Someone in his predicament cannot have the wherewithal to keep himself in prime physical and mental form. All presidents before him have undergone a transformation from when they first sat in the Oval Office to when they left. As much as Trump likes to brag that he only feels he’s in his 30’s, I would hazard to guess that he’s already dreaming of long, relaxing interludes on one of his many golf courses.

Let’s see how long it takes before the man gets his wish. How about we all donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation on behalf of Trump?

…won’t you contribute?

………hugmamma

 

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Alzheimer‘s robbed my mom of her memories…and her life. This artist’s visual depiction of the disease is uniquely poignant.

………hugmamma.

artful intuition

Our memory is like a shop in the window  of which is exposed now one,  now another photograph of the same person.  And as a rule the most recent exhibit remains for some time the only one to be seen.  ~Marcel Proust

Vanishing Point, completed as a limited handmade edition in 2009, explores the mutable, and sometimes unreliable, nature of the human memory.  The images are drawn from several decades of family photos of my maternal grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s in the last years of her life.  The tunnel book format was an ideal one to express the passage of time.  Photographic images are the remembered experiences filed away by the mind.  Insect channelling, like that seen rare books and manuscripts, represents the disease eating away at one’s recollections of times past.  These lacunae grow larger and larger as one moves forward in time.  And contrary to Proust’s description, the most recent experience, and point at which the…

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would i want to know?…would you?

A question we ask ourselves, those of us with loved ones who have succumbed to Alzheimer’s.

I must admit to having pondered the possibility of being tested myself. Wouldn’t it be prudent to prepare myself, my family? Get my life in order; do what I need to do…before I can’t.

Wouldn’t I want to go out with one, big, last hurrah? Go out with a bang! Dare to live on the edge, knowing that now is “as good as it gets.”

Ronald Reagan

Ron Reagan chose not to know if he had the gene responsible for his dad’s demise. President Reagan suffered the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s soon after he left office. The son’s decision was predicated upon the simple fact that as yet there is no cure. I was swayed, but not totally convinced myself. Until I read the following article in the  Wall Street Journal.

English: A healthy brain compared to a brain s...

English: A healthy brain compared to a brain suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Curse of a Diagnosis
by Melinda Beck
     If you were in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, would you want to know?
     That question will haunt a growing number of people and their families as scientists devise more ways to diagnose the degenerative brain disease before it causes severe symptoms, but still can’t prevent or cure it.
     Linda Dangaard underwent a spinal-tap test last year confirming suspicions of early Alzheimer’s disease at age 56. Allowing his wife to be tested “was the biggest mistake of my life,” says Colin Dangaard, age 70. Even though she is still functional and vibrant and works in the family’s Malibu saddle-importing business, the diagnosis cost her her driver’s license, many of her friends and much of her self esteem, her husband says. “Her golden years were ripped out from under her by a diagnosis that I think is cruel, because there’s nothing anybody can do about it.”
     “It feels like a bomb has gone off in my life,” says Mrs. Dangaard, who concedes that she sometimes gets confused and repeats herself. “I also ask myself, ‘Why me?’ I eat right. I exercise. No one else in my family has this.”
     Traditionally, the only way to confirm Alzheimer’s was with an autopsy, when the disease’s characteristic plaques and tangles are found in a patient’s brain. Before that, doctors diagnose it on the basis of symptoms, once they rule out other explanations. But experts say the plaques and tangles start forming 10 to 20 years before symptoms appear.
     New tests are emerging that can detect those early brain changes, and more are on the horizon. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration approved a radioactive dye, Amyvid, that makes brain plaque visible on a PET scan. It is expected to be available this summer.
     The spinal tap test that Mrs. Dangaard had measures changes in the cerebrospinal fluid associated with brain plaques and tangles. It has been available for several years, but used mainly in research settings.
     Neither test is covered by insurance or Medicare, and neither is definitive alone. Negative findings reduce the likelihood that cognitive impairment is due to Alzheimer’s. But 20% to 30% of people over 65 have some plaques in the brain and many are cognitively normal. It is unclear if they will ever develop the disease.
     Genetic tests can identify gene variations that raise the risk of Alzheimer’s to varying degrees. One rare variation virtually guarantees that a carrier will develop Alzheimer’s at an early age; their offspring have a 50% chance of inheriting it. Researches are testing a drug that could potentially prevent Alzheimer’s in a large Colombian clan that carries the gene variation. As in many research trials, family members won’t be told who has it and who doesn’t, since the knowledge can be devastating without effective treatments.
     For patients already experiencing memory problems, the ethical issues are different, experts say. It pays to have a medical evaluation, since many treatable conditions can cause dementia-like symptoms. Once those are ruled out, neurologist John Ringman at the University of California, Los Angeles, says he typically asks patients with mild cognitive impairment if they want to know if it is likely to progress to Alzheimer’s–even though the knowledge won’t change their treatment. “Some people say, ‘Doc, I want to know everything.’ Other people say, ‘If it isn’t going to affect the treatment, I should just live my life.'”
     Mrs. Dangaard’s sister, Dawn Coffee, says it was Linda who first raised concerns about her tendency to repeat herself several years ago. Mrs. Coffee and their mother–all of whom work in the Dangaards’ business–were concerned as well, so they encouraged her to investigate.
     Her primary-care doctor found that she had a severe deficiency of vtamin B-12 which can mimic Alzheimer’s. B-12 injections helped a little, but when her symptoms persisted, they consulted a neurologist, Paul Dudley. He conducted more tests, including two MRIs, which were inconclusive, and suggested they seek a more definitive diagnosis at UCLA. Still, Dr. Dudley found enough evidence of dementia that he notified state health authorities, as required by California law, triggering a review of her driver’s license.
     At UCLA, Mrs. Dangaard fared poorly on tests of memory and word recognition. But her age and the insight she displayed weren’t typical of Alzheimer’s, so Dr. Ringman suggested the spinal tap. “I wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed anything,” such as an infection or inflammation in the spinal fluid, he says. (Drs. Ringman and Dudley both had the Dangaard’s permission to discuss her case.) The spinal tap found levels of beta amyloid protein and tau “consistent with Alzheimer’s disease,” he says. And given her scores on the cognitive tests, he adds, “it isn’t what I’d call the early stages–she has significant dementia.”
     Mr. Dangaard disputes that his wife is significantly impaired and says the diagnosis has done more damage than the disease. “Sure, she can’t do the complicated ordering that she used to do in our business, but there are lots of other things she does very well,” he says.
     Losing her driver’s license has been particularly hard. “It is like house arrest in California,” he says. Mrs. Dangaard attempted to win it back but failed the written test. Mr. Dangaard blames the stress of the situation and says she misses only one or two questions out of 220 when he quizzes her at home. “She can out-Sudoku me,” he says.
     Mrs. Dangaard jokes that while her short-term memory can be hazy, “I figure if I keep doing those tests over and over again, eventually they’ll be in my long-term memory and I won’t have a problem.” Asked if she thinks she has Alzheimer’s, Mrs. Dangaard says, “I guess my wiring is a little off. But knowing it is worse than having it.”
     Her husband says, “There’s no way this diagnosis benefits people who have it. It just crushes your spirit.”
     Her sister has a different view. “I love my sister dearly. We’ve been best friends all our lives. But she’s gotten worse and he’s in denial,” says Mrs. Coffee, who says that disagreements over Linda’s condition have caused a rift in the family.
     Experts in caring for Alzheimer’s patients say it is typical for family members to disagree in such cases. It is also typical for people with Alzheimer’s to remain highly functional in some areas of life and deteriorate in others. “Patients often work very hard to compensate for it, but there comes a point where they can’t hide it anymore,” says Lori Bliss, a care manager at Senior Concerns, a nonprofit organization that serves adults with special needs in nearby Thousand Oaks, Calif.
     As devastating as it is, an early diagnosis can give families time to plan and let patients participate in financial, legal and health-care arrangements. The course of the disease is often unpredictable. Some people work and remain independent for years after a diagnosis. “Families should let people with Alzheimer’s do as much as they can and be there as a safety net,” says Norma Featherston, a senior care consultant at the Alzheimer’s Association in Ventura County, Calif. Staying active and connected socially is vital to patients’ well-being, particularly in the early stages, she adds.
     That is one thing everyone agrees on in Linda Dangaard’s case: “I just want her to live every day and be as happy as she can be,” her husband says.

With ongoing research many diseases are being dealt with successfully. It’s not the case with Alzheimer’s. Longing to know if it’s in one’s genes is logical. But we are not devoid of emotions, and feelings. Most of us would be unable to fight the tidal wave of resignation. Sinking into depression would be the equivalent of standing in quicksand. The stress and worry of knowing one’s fate might even accelerate the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Wouldn’t it be bliss if we could rid ourselves of the weaknesses of the flesh, face the inevitable head on, and leave our material trappings behind … happily … peacefully? That would be my “happily-ever-after” wish. Unfortunately, life’s not a fairy tale…

The Reagan family in 1960, from left to right:...

The Reagan family in 1960, from left to right: Ronald Reagan, Ron Reagan, Nancy Reagan, and Patti Reagan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…so we do what we can…to make each moment…worth living… 

………hugmamma.  

depression and alzheimer’s…linked?

The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a stack of Wall Street Journals sitting in my husband’s home office. He keeps threatening to toss them into the recycling bin, unread. My immediate retort is “Don’t you dare!”

Hoarders

Hoarders (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m a pack rat, bordering on hoarding. Shhh!!! Don’t out me to “The Hoarders,” the TV reality show. I’m trying to change, especially after my bed/bath remodel is completed. I swear I’ll reorganize big-time. “Famous last words” is my husband’s response to my ongoing promise.

There are always juicy tidbits in the Journal that excite me into sharing the news with you. So bear with me as I post another which deals with 2 topics with which I’m keenly interested, depression and Alzheimer’s. I’ll bet most of us know someone who has one or the other, or both. And I’m just as certain that number includes many of us.

Because my mom died with Alzheimer’s, I’m always open to potential cures, given that children might inherit the gene. Avoiding stress is identified as a strong contributor to good health, mentally and physically. It seems reasonable to assume that stress-free would also mean depression-free. And according to the following article, as we age we should avoid the “big D” in order not to succumb to the “big A.” Makes sense to me!

Nederlands: Gezonde hersenen (onder) versus he...

Nederlands: Gezonde hersenen (onder) versus hersenen van een donor met de ziekte van Alzheimer. Opvallend is de ‘verschrompeling’ die is opgetreden bij de ziekte van Alzheimer, waardoor de hersenen in omvang zijn afgenomen. English: Healthy brain (bottom) versus brain of a donor with Alzheimer’s disease. Notable is the “shrink” that has occurred in Alzheimer’s disease; the brain was decreased in size. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Study Examines Depression and Aging Brain
by Jennifer Corbett Dooren

     People who suffer from chronic depression throughout their lives are more likely to develop dementia compared with people who aren’t depressed, according to a study released Monday.
     The study, by California researchers, sheds light on whether depression might cause dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, or if it is merely an early sign of memory loss and other problems associated with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia; the second-leading cause is impaired blood supply to the brain, resulting in what is known as vascular dementia.
     “It’s quite clear depression late in life can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s,” explained Rachel Whitmer, a study researcher and an investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research. “There’s a lot of debate whether [depression] is really a risk factor for dementia, or if it just shows up.”
     The findings, published in the May issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, add to the evidence that late-in-life depression is a likely early sign of Alzheimer’s disease and suggest that chronic depression appears to increase the risk of developing vascular dementia. Adequate treatment for depression in mid-life could cut the risk of developing dementia. The study is the first to examine whether midlife or late-life depression is more likely to lead to either Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia over the long-term.
     To look at links between depression and dementia, Dr. Whitmer and other researchers looked at 13,535 long-term Kaiser Permanente members who had enrolled in a larger study in the period from 1964 to 1973 at ages ranging from 40 to 55 years old. Health information, including a survey that asked about depression, was collected at the time.
     Researchers looked at whether the same people were depressed late in life, in the period from 1994 to 2000, and then looked at whether they were diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in 2003. The participants’ average age in 2003 was 81 and 57.9% were women. The study found depression present in 14.1% of subjects in midlife only, in 9.2% in late life only and in 4.2% in both.
     Looking at those who later developed dementia, the study found 20.7% of study participants without depression developed dementia, compared with 23.5% of people who reported depression in midlife only and 31.4% of those who were depressed later in life. Among those who were depressed at both mid-and late-life, 31.5% developed dementia.
     Researchers then did more analysis to tease out Alzheimer’s diagnoses from the broader dementia category. They found people who were depressed in midlife but not late in life had no increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia. People who were depressed late in life were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s while those depressed at both mid-and late life were three times as likely to develop vascular dementia.
     Dr. Whitmer’s research focused on people’s health and how it affects brain aging. Previous studies she has conducted using Kaiser’s database of long-term members, have shown that factors such as smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol and belly fat increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. A 2008 study looking at belly fat showed people who had more belly fat during middle age had higher rates of dementia when they reached old age. The finding held true even for people whose overall body weight was considered normal.
     Kaiser Permanente Northern California is a large, nonprofit health maintenance organization that provides health services to more than one-quarter of the population in the San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., areas.
     Dr. Whitmer’s most recent study, conducted with researchers from the University of California in San Francisco, was funded by Kaiser Permanente, the National Institutes of Health and the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

Don’t let life get you down. You could end up losing more than a good night’s sleep. And do-overs are always possible, when a new day dawns. More time to create memories…

Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love

Not So Much to Be Loved as to Love (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…the highlight of our golden years…

………hugmamma.   

proactive…against alzheimer’s

My friend Sylvia sent me a nice email which, among other things, expressed her concern that perhaps I dwell on the possibility of succumbing to Alzheimer’s more than I should. I’m certain the disease is not in her genes, for I’ve never heard her speak of either parent or any family member having died with it. Sylvia’s a decade older than me, and shows no signs of memory loss. Having done extensive reading about the disease, I know that she’s already got several factors in her favor for NOT developing Alzheimer’s.

Sylvia is a voracious knitter. Challenging herself with difficult patterns probably keeps her mind agile. She is a meticulous housekeeper and gardener. You could dine off her kitchen and dining room floors, and spread out luxuriously on her manicured lawn, while your eyes feast on the abundant clematis flowers that climb the nearby fence. The exercise involved is also good for the brain, not to mention the body. Finally, Sylvia relishes socializing. She and Jim traipse hither and yon to listen to the big band sounds of “Peach Tangerine.” She has belonged to the “Happy Hooker’s” knitting group for 20+ years, inviting the ladies to her home for an annual Christmas luncheon. And she goes above and beyond to help those in need, from family members to elderly neighbors in her retirement community. Sylvia’s got socializing down to a science which is great, because it’s a key ingredient in the fight against Alzheimer’s.

Sylvia has taught me invaluable lessons on growing older gracefully…and keeping my mind healthy and happy. From what they’ve written, others have also given me useful information so that I can take a proactive role in slowing the onset of Alzheimer’s or perhaps preventing it altogether. I regularly share this information in the hopes that it might encourage others to take action as well. I don’t do it as a plea for sympathy, or to sound my own horn. I truly feel this disease, like others, can and should be addressed as early as possible. If there’s any cause for which I am fully committed, rather than “burying my head in the sand,” the delay or prevention of Alzheimer’s is the mother lode of all causes for me. I take a stand not only on my own behalf, but also on behalf of those I love, and who love me.

Cover of

Cover of Preventing Alzheimer's

Leeza Gibbons, one-time TV personality writes in the “Foreword” for Preventing Alzheimer’s – Ways to Help Prevent, Delay, Detect, and Even Halt Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Forms of Memory Loss by William Rodman Shankle, M.S., M.D. and Daniel G. Amen, M.D.:

If you’ve picked up this book, you’re probably scared. Or if not afraid, at least interested in what causes Alzheimer’s disease and learning whether you are at risk.

The reality is that we’re all at risk of having this “terrorist-like thief” randomly break into our brains and begin to rewrite our life stories. As Baby Boomers beginning to face our mortality, Alzheimer’s is the unwelcome stranger that reminds us of our vulnerability.

The good news is that we don’t have to be defenseless.

My grandmother lost her life because of Alzheimer’s disease. We lose a little more of my mom everyday. Before Mom was fully trapped behind the fog, she asked me to promise that I would tell her story and use it to educate and inspire. I am, but doing so often brings more questions than answers. She looked into the face of her mother at my Granny’s funeral knowing what her fate would be. I looked at Mom and wondered…What about my children, and what about me? Am I next in line to have my memories stolen?

When my three children ask me if I will get “it” I tell them–truthfully–that I don’t know.

Thanks to Drs. William Rodman Shankle and Daniel Amen, what I do know is that perhaps I can effectively manage my risk of getting the disease, and you can, too. Whether or not you have a history of Alzheimer’s or dementia in your family, your goal is to keep your brain strong and healthy. …

We all know that the “age wave” is about to crash in our culture and yet we are not at all ready. Even in the wake of President Ronald Reagan‘s death, there is still so much shame and stigma surrounding memory disorders that many families try to compensate and deny until they are bankrupt–financially, spiritually, and emotionally. Alzheimer’s is a disease that depletes and depletes, and it is never satisfied with the diagnosed individual…it wants the entire family.

It’s for this reason I created the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation. Our family was numb and paralyzed with fear when Mom was diagnosed. It was almost impossible to find the help and support we needed. Answers were scarce. …

Leeza's Place

At Leeza’s Place, our mantra is early diagnosis. We believe in memory screenings to get a baseline reading, against which any decline can be measured. We believe in educating our guests about the latest in alternative treatments to complement traditional approaches. We believe in being proactive against this frightening force. We believe in support for both the recently diagnosed and those who care for them.

That’s why I am so impressed with Drs. Shankle and Amen and their work. They are well-respected scientists whose work is world-renowned, but I also know them as kind, compassionate men who not only focus on how to tackle this disease, but on connecting with families who arrive in their offices with their breath knocked out of them, looking for a miracle. These two doctors will never try to talk anyone out of expecting a good outcome…they have seen it happen too many times. They have been the guiding forces toward success stories that may offer real hope against a dark landscape of despair. …

You are perhaps doing nothing short of changing the course of your future, and possibly someone else’s, by reading this book. Can you think of anything more powerful or important? It’s a popular notion that we must gracefully surrender the things of youth. Yes, we will lose our firm muscles and unlined skin, but memories should be ours for keeps. They are what resonate at the end of a life, sweetened over time.

We must do what we can to bolt the door to our minds so that our treasured recollections of those we love, where we went, and what we felt will be kept forever as a sort of “soul print” of our time here on earth. This book suggests options that might have the potential to lock out Alzheimer’s disease in order to do just that.

This image shows a PiB-PET scan of a patient w...

Image via Wikipedia

Under the heading “What the Brain Needs to Stay Healthy,” Drs. Shankle and Amen write:

Fuel
Just like any other living thing, a brain needs fuel to grow, function, and repair itself. Glucose and oxygen run the engine powered by your brain cells. Glucose is a simple six-carbon sugar. Unlike other cells in your body, your brain cells only know how to use glucose. Anything that impairs glucose delivery to brain cells is life-threatening. Oxygen is required to produce energy; without it your mitochondria will not produce enough energy to keep your brain alive. Because blood delivers glucose and oxygen to your brain, nothing must get in the way of blood flow if the brain is to stay healthy.

Stimulation
Although largely genetically programmed to turn on its functions at the right developmental age, the human brain also depends on proper stimulation to grow and develop throughout childhood and to maintain its functioning into old age. When you stimulate neurons in the right way, you make them more efficient; they function better, and you are more likely to have an active, learning brain throughout your life. …

The best sources of stimulation for the brain are physical exercise, mental exercise, and social bonding.

Physical Exercise
Physical exercise is important for brain health. Moderate exercise improves the heart’s ability to pump blood throughout the body and helps maintain healthy blood flow to the brain, which increases oxygen and glucose delivery. Exercise also reduces damage to neurons from toxic substances from the environment, and it enhances insulin’s ability to prevent high blood sugar levels, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes. Physical exercise also helps protect the short-term memory structures in the temporal lobes (hippocampus and entorhinal cortex) from high-stress conditions, which produce excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol (20). …The Honolulu Study of Aging found that untreated high blood pressure during midlife (40 to 60 years old) greatly increases the risk for dementia. …This study emphasizes the importance of regular exercise and proper treatment of any medical conditions you may have. …

Mental Exercise
Physical exercise has a global effect on the brain, but mental exercise is equally important. By mental exercise, we mean acquiring new knowledge. It is possible to use your brain without learning anything new, which in the long run is not terribly helpful. For instance, Dr. Joe L. reads mammograms all day long–reads thousands of them a year–and although he is working his brain every day, he is not actually taking in new information. Whenever the brain does something over and over, it learns how to do that particular thing using less and less energy. New learning–such as learning a new medical technique, a new hobby, or new game–helps establish new connections, thus maintaining and improving the function of other less-often-used brain areas. …

Social Interaction
One common source of brain stimulation that is often overlooked is interacting with other people. Social interaction is the fuel the brain needs to develop the ability to negotiate, cooperate, and compromise with others, to know right from wrong, and to know when to respond and when to keep silent. These highly complex human abilities are largely controlled by the tips of the frontal lobes. They start to develop before two years old, such as when the infant starts saying no to the parents. These abilities continue to develop at least until 50 years old, according to studies of brain myelination, and perhaps longer.

Child neglect has been associated with many brain-based developmental difficulties such as personality and learning and behavioral problems. Likewise, adults deprived of the company of others experience a clear negative effect on cognitive abilities, memory, and social skills. In studies on social connectedness in the elderly, it has been shown that people who spend time with others on a regular basis are cognitively sharper. In addition, their emotions are more even. Psychiatrists have seen time and again that people who are isolated commit suicide dramatically more often than those who are active in society. Simple social interaction stimulates particular neuronal circuits. For instance, there is a self-awareness circuit at the very tip of the frontal lobe. If its capacity is diminished, the person can no longer judge her own abilities. Self-awareness is maintained, literally, by being aware of oneself, and that is aided significantly by feedback from other people. If the circuits in the crucial areas of the frontal lobe aren’t being used, they atrophy, and the person’s social skills suffer.

Page 71 of the book carries “The Shankle-Amen Early Dementia Detection Questionnaire.” Listed are 21 short questions to which the answers are either “yes” or “no.” In parentheses are numerical scores. Upon completion, one is asked to total the scores for the “yes” answers.

Interpretation
If the score is 0, 1, or 2, then you have low risk factors for developing ADRD.
If the score is 3, 4, 5 or 6, then you should annually screen (see Appendix A) after age 50.
If the score is greater than 6, then you should annually screen (see appendix A) after age 40.

Following are the questions for which I answered “yes.”

1._(3.5) One family member with Alzheimer’s disease or other cause of dementia

10._(2.1) High cholesterol (hyperlipidemia)

Mrs. Laura Bush, First Lady of the United Stat...

Image via Wikipedia

As you can see my score is 5.6 indicating that I should test for memory loss, which I will be doing. Coincidentally as I write this post, there’s a Larry King special on TV, “Unthinkable – Alzheimer’s Epidemic.” Among other guests speaking of their experiences with family members who had Alzheimer’s are Leeza Gibbons, Laura Bush, Angie Dickinson, Ron Reagan, and Maria Shriver. Contributing to the piece are the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, as well as doctors, scientists, and other experts in the field. Larry King underwent testing, including an MRI, to see if symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s could be detected. He came away with a clean bill of health as far as they were concerned.

β-amyloid fibrils.

Image via Wikipedia

The message of my post, and Larry King’s TV special, is to recognize and accept the potential for Alzheimer’s. But more importantly, it’s that we should be aggressively proactive in remaining out of its debilitating grasp for as long as we are able. For once its tentacles take hold, there’s no escape…ever.

preferring to be the aggressor…and not the victim…hugmamma.