Alzheimer’s, Do you have it?

I read a lot of health related newsletters.  Alzheimer’s is mentioned more often than I would like.  Alzheimer’s is making itself into an epidemic in our country.  Part of that is because we are living longer.  A lot of it though, is because we are more likely to just sit, rather than stand to do work or spend our off work times doing things that are active.

How Alzheimer’s impacts your life

I was listening to Lisa Genova, the author of ‘Still Alice’, a book about her grandmother’s life after the Alzheimer’s diagnoses on a Ted Talks.  Those are great talks by all the greatest or most interesting minds in the world.  And, they are only 17 minutes long.  Someone figured out we can only really listen well for 17 minutes.  So the talks are that long.

She talks about the DNA relationships for families that have certain genes.  My ex-husband’s mother had early onset Alzheimer’s.  She started showing signs at age 50. Her genetic DNA gave my ex a 50% predisposition for that disease. We didn’t recognize the signs because she didn’t live with us and we didn’t see her that often.  Her family didn’t really figure that something was wrong, until she didn’t pay the taxes on the property she managed for her family.  Then, it was obvious that something was wrong.  But, by then it was too late.  She married a new widower and they moved to a state far away from the family.  Most likely, she noticed that something wasn’t right and did what she felt would keep her safe.

Is your forgetting Really dementia?

One of the things that is very important to understand is that Alzheimer’s is easily misdiagnosed.  I, after my divorce, was forgetting things and missing appointments.  My job performance was OK, but I was a total mess in my private life.  I asked a doctor friend of mine what could be wrong and he sent me to a Neurologist who diagnosed me with Alzheimer’s. Don’t get me wrong.  The Alzheimer’s specialist did do a CT scan.  It appeared to him that my left temporal lobe was smaller than the right.

I should have remembered that Specialists in certain diseases tend to find those diseases in their patients.  My ex had almost been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis by a doctor who specialized in MS.  She listened to his symptoms and determined that was what he had.  She actually didn’t do the “Gold Standard” test (which is a Spinal Tap) for that diagnoses.  The doctor just listened to his symptoms and decided he had MS.

Typical age-related memory loss and other changes compared to Alzheimer’s

 

Signs of Alzheimer’s

Typical age-related changes

Poor judgment and decision making Making a bad decision once in a while
Inability to manage a budget Missing a monthly payment
Losing track of the date or the season Forgetting which day it is and remembering later
Difficulty having a conversation Sometimes forgetting which word to use
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them Losing things from time to time

A Second Diagnoses could save a lot of pain

I didn’t agree with the first diagnosis.  That would have completely changed his life and I didn’t, for some reason, think she was right.  So I took him to another doctor who was more of a General Practitioner Neurologist, who did the Spinal Tap.   Not a fun test to get.  That test though, showed that he didn’t have MS.  So the new doctor checked further, and discovered that he was suffering from depression and anxiety.  He had a very high placed position and a lot was expected of him.  His personality was not very happy with that, so he had become anxious to the point of dropping things and not actually feeling things in his hands.  He worked with priceless fragile pieces of our history, so that wasn’t a good situation.  However, when he got treated for that, the symptoms went away.

Symptoms of Depression can be very like Alzheimer’s.

Symptoms

Although depression may occur only once during your life, people typically have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches (or dropping things that are very light)

If they had just asked me:

I had forgotten about that specialist diagnosing MS though.  And, I was never asked about what was going on in my life,  so I spent the next three years taking Alzheimer’s medications. Since I am single and need to do everything myself, I contacted the Alzheimers Disease information board and learned all about Alzheimer’s and what you needed to do and be prepared for as the disease progressed.  Unfortunately, I had no family members available to be caregivers, so I was kind of on my own.

That was probably a good thing, because I watched every little thing I did so I could be ready to make further changes in my life.  After all, when it got bad enough, I was going to need to have someplace to go.  I made sure I had my will made out and had the disposal of my body set up.  (I set it up that it would go to science)

Make sure you keep on top of what is happening in your life

Sometimes things are not what they seem

The weird thing though, was that, after three years, I realized I hadn’t gotten any worse.  So, I went to another neurologist and had more testing and found that I didn’t have Alzheimer’s at all. It was determined that the first CT scan person had placed my head incorrectly.  A second CT showed no difference in the two lobes.  So, the doctor looked for other reasons.  When I explained what had been going on during that time, he realized I had just been extremely depressed.  Not surprising in the situation, but very surprising that no one thought of noticing that the symptoms of clinical depression could be very close to those of Alzheimer’s.

After all of this, I continued being interested in learning aboutt Alzheimer’s though because it started being diagnosed in friends of mine.  And, I watched them all go down hill and have families become caregivers. The wives or husbands had to  change their lives to one of being nurse and parent as time went on. That is really hard when it is someone you love and respect   My own Stepfather died from it and I saw how it changed everyone’s life. He had gone from being brilliant, to not able to finish a sentence and he hated that.  That is one thing I learned.  Alzheimer’s is even more frustrating for the person it is happening to than for the caregiver.  We watch them change, but they feel it.

A Site called “Go Boldly” talks about the pharmaceutical industries approaches.

Using MRI-based technology, scientists can now identify early physical symptoms, like plaque buildup, that may differentiate mild cognitive impairment related to early-onset Alzheimer’s from normal aging. This allows researchers, to see brain dysfunction in patients before they lose tissue and nerve cells.

Many of the new treatments in development have the potential to be the first disease-altering medication for this disease. One, for example, uses immunotherapy, an antibody treatment aimed to directly attack the disease and prevent it from progressing. Another possible treatment uses antibodies to significantly reduce the level of amyloid-β, a protein found in the brains of people with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Researchers are also testing treatments that target tau protein tangles that damage and kill brain cells, as well as a receptor that decreases a neurotransmitter necessary for the brain to think and function normally. Additionally, there are medicines being designed to decrease inflammation found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients while strengthening the immune system to fight the disease. If just one of these treatments is proven effective, we can possibly delay this disease by five years, reducing the number of people affected by roughly 40 percent.

However

However, this approach is entirely pharmaceutical. I try to stay away from pharmaceutical stuff as much as I can.  Although, they are certainly wanted if you do have the disease. I have read information though that says several of the most used pharmaceuticals don’t really make a difference either.

I’ve also read a lot of information about alternative supplement therapy.  I checked the most famous ones out and found that most of the information is anecdotal and, when actual clinical trials were done there was little difference between the result and the placebo.   I also have ready a lot of information that basically says the same thing over and over.  Lifestyle changes are needed to give your body the best chance of both fighting the disease, or possibly keeping yourself from getting it in the first place.

Principals I discovered when I thought I had the disease, that are supposed to help keep us from getting the disease

These three things are noted by pretty much every site that talks about changes needed.  There are other things mentioned, getting ready for sleep, not using your ebook or watching TV before going to bed, sleeping longer, etc.  However, I just think these three will make a difference in your life whether they stop the disease from happening or not.  And, they were all mentioned in every article I read.  So, I think these are the best to try to do.

An active life is necessary as you age, because frailty is really bad for your body. Your bones get weak. Your balance becomes unstable.  And, you fall more easily.  All of these things destroy your quality of life whether you have Alzheimers or not.  There are books available. We need to do some exercise about three times a week. Walking is good, but if you are older, there are books that are just right for that situation,   For example,

                                       Sit and Be Fit Arthritis Award-Winning Chair Exercise Workout For Seniors-Stretching, Aerobics, Strength Training, and Balance. Improve flexibility, muscle and bone strength, circulation, heart health, and stability
Eat a healthy diet. I know that it is so easy to get out of the habit of eating correctly.  And, I understand how it is a pain to cook when it is just you or you don’t feel like taking the time.  There are a host of new companies out now that will bring either the makings or already cooked meals to your door.  Or, if you don’t have the money for that, most grocery stores have little snacks that consist of cheese for the protein carrots, for the vegetable and grapes, for the fruit. They even add some pretzels for the carb.  I use those often as a quick snack when I am hungry and want something good for me.  However, if you are still cooking and want to change to a healthier diet.  A Mediterranean diet is very healthy and seems to make a difference. All that fresh food is good for you and there are many diet books available that talk about this kind of diet.
Coconut Oil has a lot of people very excited about how much it helps with Alzheimer’s.  Many articles are available in Internet that tout the wonders of Coconut Oil for everything from better skin to making people with Alzheimer’s seem to get better.  I don’t know, but I know that it is good for you and there is a book about what it does for you.

This is probably one of the most important points

Learning something new all the time is really a good way to make sure your brain has enough synapses to go around those who are stuffed with amyloid plaques.  That was the main point of the Ted Talk, by Lisa Genova.  She said that if you continually learn new things, you have less chance of getting dementia.   And I mean new, not like crossword puzzles, where you are bringing up old discrete memories.  But new things, like learning another language or tackling something you have wanted to learn all your life.

Make sure it is something you do not know yet.  You don’t have to do brain puzzles. I tried them and  thought  they were sort of boring and have no point.  But, you will do better if you are learning something that interests you.  That will build new synapses and help you keep your memory intact, even with lots of amyloid plaques in your brain. For Example: Learning to knit uses your hands and your brain.  Learning to dance will help your balance and keep your bones stronger because it is a weight bearing exercise.  Swimming is great for stress relief and weight. All of these types of new learning use a lot of different parts of your body, ie. muscle memory, brain, eyes, core balance.  All of these things in concert are a way of keeping your brain young with new synapses.

Lisa called this Neuroplasticity:  Neuroplasticity: “The brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment.” According to Google information.
Lisa used the example of remembering her name.  If that was all you knew, it was very easy to forget.  But, if you knew that she wrote “Still Alice” and what she looked like and you watched her on Ted Talks, you would be more likely to remember her name, because you had several synapses that went to remembering her name. In other words, you knew her name, that she wrote a book, what she looked like and the seventeen minutes you saw heard her talk on Ted Talk. So you knew 4 things about her.  Thus, if three synapses were blocked, you still had one that would remember.

If you do these three things:

These three lifestyle changes help us keep from letting Alzheimer’s happen to us. To me, they seem to be easy lifestyle changes for those of us who want to stay sharp into our Golden Years.  We can’t stop it from happening, but we can try to make our bodies more Alzheimers proof.

There was a longitudinal study called “The Nun’s Study” that Lisa mentioned.  It was very interesting. A whole convent of nuns had their brains studied after they died.  Almost no one exhibited  signs of Alzheimer’s.  Yet their brains had just as much percentage of amyloid plaques as people who had Alzheimer’s.  It was determined that these nuns just kept themselves busy, ate right and were always learning.  Most likely they grew their own food, memorized scripture and sang a lot. A positive mindset is also very good for everything in your life.

My Answer had a reason behind it

My answer  for  learning something new,  was to try Link Post Blogging with Rory.  I have never learned so much in my life, and it is fun to keep up with the latest technology.  I now know what is trending in the world and where the world is going at a far faster pace than it was when I was young. I’m now keeping up!

Being retired was getting boring. I did the same things every day. Now every day is a new day to learn something more and get to know more people.  I love it!  And, it helps out with the retirement check, which is getting a little sparse with the rising cost of living.  So, I’m doing the right things to keep myself sharp, and keeping up with the times, and making new synapses in my brain. What’s not to like?