Saturday, July 20, 2019

SHIELD for Alzheimer’s

It is hard not to be frustrated that Alzheimer’s is a terminal disease. It is easy to feel helpless and hopeless, but that is not productive. We need to grasp the reins and do everything within our power to take care of those who have the disease, find effective treatment, and find a cure. It is also a major goal to prevent Alzheimer’s. Until an immunization is perfected, research has given us tools to reduce our chances of developing Alzheimer’s, or possibly delay the onset.

Dr. Rudi Tanzi recommends lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as much as 60%. He says the word shield can be used to remind you of healthy habits that can help keep your body and brain healthy.The word shield can be used to remind you of healthy habits that can help keep your body and brain healthy.

Sleep. We need our zzz’s to function. The rule of thumb used to be eight hours, but in today’s world, we don’t go to bed at dark and get up at daylight. Shift workers may have a difficult time to get a good “days” sleep. When our internal circadian clock gets out of whack (not the medical term!) the brain doesn’t go through its cycle to wash away the plagues that want to clog up our brains.

Handle stress. I don’t want to cause stress by mentioning how detrimental to a person’s health stress is. Stress releases the hormone cortisol, which can damage brain cells and cause inflammation. Recent studies indicate that brain inflammation is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. We can’t avoid stress; we can only manage it.

Interact with friends. Being socially active is your “friend” when fighting Alzheimer’s disease. By socially, I’m not talking Facebook friends who may be more annoying than helpful. I’m talking about friends who have your back and bring joy into your life. If that happens to be your Facebook friends, then by all means, interact to your heart’s content. Loneliness and isolation increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. 

Exercise. We all know the benefits of exercise. Exercise increases energy level, reduces stress, and helps us maintain a healthier body and brain. Yes, exercise helps your brain. It increases the blood flow in the brain and helps cognition. Find a physical activity you enjoy that fits your physical condition. Exercise with friends to double your fight against Alzheimer’s disease!

Learn new things. If you are like me, you want to learn new things. I learned to play the ukulele about two years ago and now I’ve joined the family band. We play music once a month in three different nursing homes. Learning new things create new synapses in your brain. How cool is that? Having fun and helping my brain.

Diet. No, don’t go on a crash diet! Yo-yo dieting is bad, bad, bad for your health. Your mama knew what she was talking about when she told you to eat your veggies. A Mediterranean type diet reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, fish, and olive oil is good for your heart and your brain. So, instead of starving yourself, feed your brain!

If we do all these things are we guaranteed not to develop Alzheimer’s?  The short answer is no. If you wear a seatbelt, it does not guarantee that you will not be injured or killed in an auto accident, but it does increase your chances of survival. If you exercise and lower cholesterol, it doesn’t mean you will not have heart disease, but it lowers your risk.

Life doesn’t come with a guarantee warding off ugly diseases, but use your SHIELD for the best defense against Alzheimer’s disease.

source: Tanzi, Dr. Rudi, NBC Nightly News, July 16, 2019

Copyright © July 2019 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, July 5, 2019

Imagine a Land Free from Alzheimer’s

Our Walk to End Alzheimer’s group participated in the annual 4th of July Parade. My friend WyAnn had prepared a sign that said, Imagine a Land Free from Alzheimer’s. Along the parade route, there isn’t much time to think of anything, but after the excitement died down, I couldn’t stop thinking about that sign.

What if our land was free from Alzheimer’s? Think of how much that would impact the 5.8 million American families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Imagine what a wonderful world this would be.

Our memories, personalities, and skills are the most basic part of our lives. Yet, dementia steals those precious qualities from people we love. Our mothers become our daughters. Our fathers become our sons. Our spouses become our children as we love them and care for them. Collectively, we American families provide 18.5 billion hours each year taking care of our own.

From personal experience, I can tell you that being a primary caregiver for someone with dementia is not for sissies or the squeamish. In the early stages, my caregiver duty was to keep Jim on track. I went to the doctor with him and kept track of his medication. His skill levels began to diminish. A man who once had the ability to tear a car down and put it back together would dismantle a vacuum sweeper or a VCR, but couldn’t reassemble the parts.

In the middle stages, caregiving was more intense. The day started with helping him bathe and get dressed for the day. These jobs became harder as the disease progressed, and he needed more help with toileting and incontinence. Jim only needed about four hours sleep, and I couldn’t sleep with him wandering around the house, or worse yet outside in the dark. His wandering was dangerous and along with other behavior problems, it was obvious he needed a safer environment.

Caregiving doesn’t end at the nursing home door! Some caregivers are comfortable with providing emotional support, interacting with staff, and supervising care. My comfort level was to make sure Jim was clean, fed, and comfortable. For the five years Jim was in nursing care, I, or a member of our family, checked on him almost every day and assisted with his care.

The clock is ticking. Every 65 seconds another person in our land begins the Alzheimer’s journey. Imagine if that didn’t happen, or if it did, it could be cured. Well, if wishing and hoping could make it happen, dementia wouldn’t exist.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s will triple in a generation if we don’t have a medical breakthrough. We can’t have a breakthrough without research. When I first went to DC to advocate for Alzheimer’s research funding, NIH had budgeted less than $500 million for research. I know that to you and me that sounds like a lot of money, but it is barely a blip on the radar of research possibilities. Research was stalled at a time when it should have been accelerated. If you don’t see that, look at how our country used the necessary resources to find an effective treatment for HIV and AIDS. HIV/AIDS was once the inevitable death sentence that Alzheimer’s is today.

It has taken us two decades to reach a level of research funding that could bring about a positive result. Now, we need to be relentless in advocating for research dollars. We cannot afford to wait another two decades for a cure. The clock is ticking.  

Imagine if our land was free from Alzheimer’s disease.