Tuesday, January 13, 2015

UPDATE: January 15 is Last Day to Vote in Best Health Blog Contest!

Healthline interviewed me for their Facebook page. Here is that interview:

Read about why Linda is participating in the Best Health Blog contest:
1) What inspired you to start blogging?

My husband, Jim, developed dementia at 49 years old. After a series of tests, the doctor told us that Jim had dementia of the Alzheimer's type. I knew nothing about Alzheimer's so my first reaction was, "Isn't there medicine for that?" That was the beginning of the journey where we learned that nothing would slow down the progression of the disease and that it was 100% fatal. Jim died in 2005, ten years after the diagnosis.
I reached out to the Alzheimer's Association before we had a diagnosis, and they became my lifeline. I called myself the Alzheimer's Association poster child because I took advantage of every program and service they offered. I became an Alzheimer's volunteer and advocate as a way of giving back to the Association and extending a helping hand to others who were becoming acquainted with the harsh reality of dementia.
2) What would you do with the money if you won?

I would use the money to help pay expenses to the Alzheimer's Advocacy Forum in Washington, D.C. in March. I'm already registered for the 2015 Forum--my fifteenth consecutive trip to advocate for Alzheimer's research and programs to help care partners cope. Each year, I join hundreds of other advocates as we don our purple "beauty queen" sashes and storm Capitol Hill.
3) What has been your best blogging moment?

My best blogging moment(s) are when someone tells me they have learned something helpful or found encouragement from one of my posts. I think my most thrilling moment was when the national Alzheimer's Association featured a story about Jim and me in their online newsletter with a link to my blog. That was the first time that more than 100 people visited my blog in one day.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Has Stanford Found a Cure for Alzheimer’s?

It is with optimistic caution that I share the latest good news regarding Alzheimer’s research from Stanford University. They may have found the elusive and overdue cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Over the past fifteen years, I’ve heard exciting news about Alzheimer’s research that fizzled out after sailing through preliminary testing.

Is the Stanford University research going to be exception to past experience? I hope so!

I’ve always heard that you can’t keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. That is one reason that grants are often awarded to researchers who try a new approach to the same problem:  What causes Alzheimer’s and how can it be cured?

The hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease are deposits of beta-amyloid plaques between nerve cells and tangles of the protein tau that build up inside cells. Aging is the number one risk factor for developing the disease, but it is not a normal part of aging.

Alzheimer’s is a destructive and always fatal brain disease, currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Alzheimer’s relentlessly progresses from mild symptoms to the final stages requiring constant care. People with the disease live an average of eight years, but some live twenty years or longer.

Stanford’s approach is to boost the brains’ own immune response to prevent and cure Alzheimer’s. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine discovered that by blocking the protein EP2, microglia cells will continue to cleanse the brain of dangerous beta-amyloid deposits.

“The microglia are supposed to be, from the get-go, constantly clearing amyloid-beta, as well as keeping a lid on inflammation,” Dr. Katrin Andreasson, professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford, said.

Microglia cells are your own personal defense system. Their function is to search and destroy dead cells and other debris in the brain such as the gummy deposits Alzheimer’s disease leaves in the wake of its destructive path.

Experiments on mice have been encouraging. Microglia goes about its business of protecting the brains of young mice. In older mice, the presence of EP2 proteins stopped the microglia cells from doing their job of destroying the dead cells. Another group of mice were genetically engineered to never develop EP2, and even when injected with beta-amyloid did not develop Alzheimer’s. Even more exciting news for people with Alzheimer’s—blocking EP2 in older mice reversed the memory loss!

Of course, a great distance separates animal testing and drug development. Stanford has hopes of developing a drug to block EP2. They believe a compound that only blocks EP2 would not have unnecessary side effects.

Have researchers finally found the key to unlock the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease? Time will tell if the Stanford study is the long-awaited breakthrough and the end of Alzheimer’s.

Copyright © January 2015 by L.S. Fisher

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Baby It’s Cold Outside

According to my phone this morning the temperature was hovering at a balmy nine degrees and a cyclonic wind pushed the “real feel” way below zero. My last therapy appointment was today at 11:00 a.m. I dreaded going outside and would have loved to burrow under the covers and drink coffee. But, dang, I couldn’t miss my last appointment.

At least I was geared up for it to be my last one. I was a little concerned since Monday as I entered the school to watch my granddaughter play basketball, I tripped on the threshold. My right shoe came off and I landed splat on the floor a short nanosecond later. Holy cow, to add insult to injury, I landed on the very arm I had been working on in therapy.

After the initial pain and agony, I spent some quality hours on a heat pad. I downed some ibuprofen and didn’t feel too bad on Tuesday, my day off from therapy. By this morning, I was ready to give it a whirl.

Which brings me back to the weather. I layered my clothing and put on my heaviest coat before I headed out the door. When I got to Peak Performance the parking lot was much emptier than I’d ever seen it. Sure enough, they had a lot of cancellations. After my therapy, I headed for home. It was too darned cold to do anything else.

Cold weathers seems to breed misery. There’s nothing that says “Big Chill” like frozen water pipes or a car that won’t start. I remember the days when we drove an old vehicle, and Jim would get up every few hours to start it up so that we would be able to go to work.

Every summer we complain about how hot it is outside, but when winter hits, we decide that the heat of summer wasn’t so bad after all. There’s nothing like getting hit with an icy north wind to make you long for the dog days of summer.

This frigid winter weather can be hazardous to life and limb. The weather advisory on my phone warned of frostbite and hypothermia. During a cold snap in November, two homeless men died in our town. I can’t even imagine how frightening it would be to be homeless when wind chills are expected to be twenty below zero.

This type of temperatures are also dangerous for people with dementia. Seventy percent of people with dementia wander. While this is a concern in decent weather, severely cold weather presents a real and imminent danger. Even dressed for the weather, time outside must be limited. Too often people with dementia wander off without a coat, hat, and gloves.

Cold weather isn’t too bad in a well insulated house. I remember when we lived in a mobile home water froze overnight in a cup I had left in the sink. We’d crank the heat up as high as it would go, but the furnace couldn’t compete with the wind whistling around poorly installed windows and doors.

I feel for people who live in older homes that are not well insulated. Another time we lived in an older home and the propane lines froze. We sent the kids to their grandma and grandpa’s house while we tried to get the furnace working again and keep the water from freezing. I remember us huddling under a blanket using a hair dryer to generate heat. If that happened now, I’d probably just check into a hotel until the spring thaw.

I shouldn’t complain too much about the cold while I’m warm and cozy. I know that not everyone can keep warm in this type of weather and that bothers me.

Yes, baby, it’s cold outside, but better days are coming. I guess the cheery thought is—spring is only seventy-one days away.

Copyright © January 2015 by L.S. Fisher


Saturday, January 3, 2015

A New Year’s Revolution to End Alzheimer’s

This is the beginning of a new year, and I think it’s time that we organize a revolution against Alzheimer’s disease. The National Alzheimer’s Plan is to find a prevention or effective cure for Alzheimer’s by 2025. When I woke up this morning, I realized that is exactly 10 years from now!

Ten years may seem like a long time, but it isn’t. It takes an average of 12 years for a drug to traverse the path from research lab to the patient. Ninety percent of the drugs in preclinical testing are never tested on humans. Of the ones that make it to human testing only one in five will ever be approved.

So what can you do to join the revolution? Assuming you are not a researcher, your efforts can be focused in a different way. You can join the battle to End Alzheimer’s!

  1. Contact your legislators. Write letters, make phone calls, send emails, or visit them in district or D.C. The government funnels research dollars through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  NIH annually submits a budget request which after modification is submitted to Congress from the President. Alzheimer’s research is underfunded at $480 million. In June, thanks to advocacy efforts, an additional $100 million was added to the NIH budget. To put this in perspective, NIH spends $6 billion (with a B) on cancer research, $4 billion on heart disease, and $3 billion on HIV/AIDS research annually. Researchers use grants to develop treatments. Do the math.
  2. Participate in Walk to End Alzheimer’s. More than 450,000 participants in 600 Walks nationwide raised awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support, and research. The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research  and the world’s leading voluntary health organization for Alzheimer’s care.
  3. Contact your local chapter. The Alzheimer’s Association has 70 chapters that serve communities across the United States. Chapters are the front lines in the battle against Alzheimer’s. They will help you find the resources you need to navigate through the quagmire of living with Alzheimer’s.
  4. Arm yourself! No one goes into battle without equipment, ammunition, and a plan. To prepare yourself, acquire knowledge about the disease and develop a plan that will provide quality of life for the person with the disease and the care partner. Learn how to communicate and alleviate the stress caused by behavior.
  5. Build a support system. Surround yourself with friends, family, and loved ones who will support you. You need people that will be on your side even when the going gets rough. Build a medical team for the person with dementia and the care partner—primary physician, neurologist, and specialists in any other illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer.
  6. Keep a log of all medical information. Use pen and paper, a document, spreadsheet—whatever works for you—detailing all treatments, medications, side effects, tests. This will help you fill out medical forms and avoid unnecessary tests or medications that caused side effects.
  7. Enjoy life! Watch for moments of joy and don’t stop living. Don’t place everything on hold. Alzheimer’s is a disease that can last for decades. Learn to adapt to each stage and pursue activities that put a smile on your face. Love and patience overcome a lot of barriers.

More than five million people in the United States currently have Alzheimer’s disease and new cases are skyrocketing.  Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death and the only disease in the top ten without an effective treatment or cure. No cure. A hundred percent fatal.

Where is the outcry? The outrage? This country has never been one to sit on its hands and let a disease wipe out millions of people—but that is exactly what is happening with Alzheimer’s.

That is why it’s time for a revolution. This disease and related dementias—vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, Frontotemporal degeneration, mixed dementia, Parkinson’s, Creutzfeldt-Jakob, normal pressure hydrocephalus, the rare dementias (including corticobasal degeneration)—has to stop. NOW.  It is time to arm ourselves with passion and knowledge to  eradicate Alzheimer’s disease once and for all. Won’t you become an advocate and join the fight to End Alzheimer’s?

Copyright © January 2015 by L.S. Fisher