Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s

Early warning signs of Alzheimer's

Thu, 12 May 2016 13:00:19 +0000

eowyn2

Of late, I’ve been spending a lot of time visiting an assisted-living home — a lovely, well-maintained facility for elderly people who span the spectrum of physicial and mental disabilities, including those in hospice care.

To my shock, I discovered that a long-time acquaintance, D.V., who was the founder and editor of a Catholic journal, is a resident of the facility — in its Memory Care wing that is separated from the rest of the compound by double-doors because the patients there all have dementia. D.V. is cheerful and in good spirits, but cannot talk, nor does he recognize his family and friends.

Then there is Emily, not yet in Memory Care, but heading that way. Emily has no short-term memory, and repeatedly makes the same request to the dining room staff she’s asked just minutes ago, “Please bring me some crackers for my soup.”

Approximately 7.7 million new cases of dementia are identified every year—which amounts to one new case every four seconds.

The dreaded Alzheimer’s disease is a severe form of dementia which affects as many as 1 in 8 people 65 and older, or an estimated 5.2 million Americans in 2013.

Alzheimer’s causes nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. As the disease gets worse, brain tissue shrinks and areas that contain cerebrospinal fluid become larger. The damage harms memory, speech, and comprehension.

Diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheimer's Disease

Diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease

In its first stages, Alzheimer’s may not be obvious to friends and family because it is normal for people to become a bit forgetful as they age. So how can you tell a harmless “senior moment” from Alzheimer’s disease?

Below are the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, from WebMD:

(1) Loss of short-term memory: In early Alzheimer’s, long-term memories usually remain intact while short-term memories become sketchy. The affected individual may forget conversations s/he’s just had and, like Emily, repeat questions that were already answered.

(2) Forgetting common, everyday words: Alzheimer’s disrupts speech, so the affected might struggle to remember common words.

(3) Confusion and behavior changes, such as:

  • Trouble balancing the checkbook, often one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s.
  • Getting lost in familiar places.
  • Mood swings.
  • Lapses in judgment.
  • Poor hygiene: people who were once stylish may start wearing stained clothes and forget to wash their hair.

(4) Sundown Syndrome: Some people with Alzheimer’s get upset when the sun goes down. This tends to last through the evening and sometimes all night long. To ease tension, keep the house well lit and close the drapes before sunset; try to distract the individual with a favorite activity or TV show; switch him to decaf after breakfast.

Don’t Ignore the Signs!

It’s hard to face the thought that a loved one could have this disease, but it’s better to see a doctor sooner rather than later. It may not be Alzheimer’s as the symptoms can be caused by a highly treatable problem, like a thyroid imbalance.

And if it is Alzheimer’s, treatments work best when they’re used early in the course of the disease. Although there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s and no way to slow the nerve damage it causes in the brain, there are medications that appear to help maintain mental skills and slow the disease’s effects. If your loved one gets treatment early on, s/he may be able to stay independent and do their daily tasks for a longer period of time.

There’s no simple test for Alzheimer’s, so the doctor will use the following to diagnose:

  • Changes in memory and behaviors of the patient.
  • A mental status test, sometimes called a “mini-cog,” or other screening tests can measure the individual’s mental skills and short-term memory.
  • Neurological exams and brain scans may be used to rule out other problems, like a stroke or tumor, and they can provide other information about the brain.

Alzheimer’s takes a different path in every person. Sometimes the symptoms get worse quickly and lead to severe memory loss and confusion within a few years. For other people the changes are gradual, taking up to 20 years for the disease to run its course. Most people live 3 to 9 years after diagnosis.

In its late stage, people with advanced Alzheimer’s may lose their ability to walk, talk, or respond to others. Eventually, the disease can hinder vital functions, like the ability to swallow, signaling that this may be the time to switch to hospice care, which provides pain relief and comfort for people with terminal illnesses.

While you or your loved one is still able to make important decisions, make sure you/he/she make a will and sign an advance care directive — a legal document that will help avoid confusion later on if you’re no longer able to state your wishes by:

  • Spelling out what you want in terms of medical treatments and end-of-life care.
  • Naming someone to make health care decisions and manage finances on your behalf.

Is there anything you can do to lower your chances of getting this disease? Research in this area is ongoing, but diet and life-style (exercise; don’t smoke!) appear to be important. Studies show people who eat a Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, fish, and nuts and get plenty of physical activity are the least likely to get Alzheimer’s.

See also:

~Eowyn

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Why obesity offends God

Have you noticed how in old television shows from the 1960s, ’70s, and even ’80s, everyone looks thin?
Americans are too fat. Despite that, we are getting fatter.
A new study warns that at the rate we’re going, in 18 years, by the year 2030, more than 4 of every 10 (42%) Americans may become obese and 11% could be severely obese.

Obesity is more than being over weight. These terms are defined by the body mass index (BMI), a measurement that is closely related to both percentage body fat and total body fat:

  • “Normal weight” means a BMI of 18.5–24.9
  • “Over weight” means a BMI of 25.0–29.9
  • “Obesity” means a BMI of 30.0–34.9
  • “Severe obesity” means a BMI of 35.0–39.9
  • “Morbid obesity” means a BMI of 40 or over

BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s mass (weight) by the square of his or her height, typically expressed either in metric or US “customary” units of lbs. and inches. This is the formula:

BMI = mass (lb) ÷ (height in inches)² x 703

There’s an easier way to calculate your BMI. Click here!
Nanci Hellmich reports for USA Today, May 7, 2012, that the obesity rate was relatively stable in the USA between 1960 and 1980, when about 15% of people fell into the category. It increased dramatically in the ’80s and ’90s and was up to 32% in 2000 and 36% in 2010, according to CDC data.

As of 2010, more than 1 of every 3 U.S. adults (about 36%) were obese, which is roughly 30 pounds over a healthy weight, and 6% were severely obese, which is 100 or more pounds over a healthy weight. Those percentages qualify as an epidemic.
According to CDC data, in 2010, the South has the highest prevalence of obesity (29.4%) followed by the Midwest (28.7%), Northeast (24.9%) and the West (24.1%). Mississippi has the highest obesity rate of all 50 states, at 34%. Colorado has the lowest obesity rate, at 21%.
Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest rates of obesity (44.1%) compared with Mexican Americans (39.3%), all Hispanics (37.9%) and non-Hispanic whites (32.6%).
Between 1988–1994 and 2007–2008 the prevalence of obesity increased in adults at all income and education levels
According to a new study led by Eric Finkelstein, a health economist with Duke University Global Health Institute, 42% of Americans may end up obese by 2030, and 11% could be severely obese, adding billions of dollars to health care costs. That means 32 million more obese people within two decades, on top of the almost 78 million people who were already obese in 2010.
The analysis was presented at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Weight of the Nation” meeting. The study is being published online in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Extra weight takes a huge toll on health, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, many types of cancer, sleep apnea and other debilitating and chronic illnesses. (Read more on obesity-associated morbidity here.)
The latest finding is that obesity also increases the risk of senile dementia! A new study published in the journal Neurology found that people who are obese in middle age are at almost four times greater risk of developing dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease in later life than people of normal weight.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that medical-related costs of obesity may be as high as $147 billion a year, or roughly 9% of medical expenditures. An obese person costs an average of $1,400 more in medical expenses a year than someone who is at a healthy weight, they found. Other researchers have estimated the costs may be even higher.
If the obesity rate stays at 2010 levels instead of rising to 42% as predicted, then the country could save more than $549.5 billion in weight-related medical expenditures between now and 2030, says study co-author Trogdon.
More than medical costs, obesity-related heath problems also mean a reduced life expectancy. Obesity is one of the leading preventable causes of death worldwide. On average, obesity reduces life expectancy by six to seven years: a BMI of 30–35 reduces life expectancy by two to four years, while severe obesity (BMI > 40) reduces life expectancy by 10 years.

photo by Fiona Hanson/PA


But there is yet another reason for us NOT to be obese:

Obesity is an offense against God who made us in His own image.

The following is taken from an essay, “Food Is Sacred,” written by Fr. Joseph Illo, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Modesto, California, May 8, 2012:

“Supersize it.” If one, six-dollar burger is good, two is better, and best of all when they are on sale, two for ten dollars! We love to eat. […] Food is essential for human life. But why, then, is food the number one killer in America? Heart disease, due almost entirely to overeating or eating the wrong kinds of foods, is our number one cause of death in America. Actually, food is a sacred gift, and so the abuse of this sacred gift is seriously harmful.

Jesus shows us how to properly order our appetite for food. Consider the Last Supper: Jesus took a little bread, and a little wine. Both are natural, wholesome foods. And this is what we do at Mass: a little bread, a little wine, which is really the very body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus.

How we worship is how we should eat, because food is sacred.

Our market-driven culture teaches us to consume. We are told that food, as much and as often as we can get it, makes us happy. As with all lies, there is a kernel of truth in this: food does make us happy, but in right proportion. Too much food, or the wrong kind of food, makes us bloated, heavy, depressed, and ultimately kills us with every disease from diabetes to cardiac failure.

To be genuinely happy, we must discipline ourselves, as Jesus did. He took only a little baked fish (not fried fish!). He chastised his body; he restrained his appetites.

God made each of us in His own image. We therefore should treat our bodies with respect, instead of abuse. There is a reason why Gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins!
You don’t have to be a Christian or believe in God to recognize that truth.
In his An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751), the great Scottish philosopher David Hume thought hard about ethics and morality. To this day, Hume’s definition remains among the best definitions of what “immoral” is.
For Hume, “immoral” is whatever that does harm or injury to oneself and/or to others.
Obesity, being harmful to our health and a burden in medical costs borne by not just us but the entire medical care system, fits that definition!
~Eowyn

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Magic Pill that fights disease and adds years to your life!

Was your new year resolution that of exercising more?
And have you already abandoned your resolution?
Be kind to yourself and forgive yourself. You are only human.
Please watch this video made by a physician. Your life depends on it!
[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=aUaInS6HIGo]
This is what regular exercise does for us:

  • Reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, falls, fractures, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancer.
  • Lowers blood pressure, improves our lipid profile, helps process glucose and insulin.
  • Improves our cognitive function, preventing the frightful Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Helps combat and prevent depression.
  • Helps our functional health — being able to do the things we used to do as we get older.
  • Increases life expectancy by 3-5 years.

If there’s a drug that can do all the above, it would be called a Magic Pill and we’d all be taking it.
Regular exercise means as little and as easy as a half-hour walk 5 days a week!
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So put on your walking shoes and Take a Hike! 😀
~Eowyn

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Take the Brain Fitness Quiz!


Do you know how to keep your brain sharp?

Do you worry about losing your mental sharpness as you age? Alzheimer’s disease is the ultimate mind and memory thief, but there are other forms of dementia, and there’s also garden-variety cognitive decline.
The good news is there are things you can do to keep your brain fit. Are you taking advantage of them? Take this short 6-question quiz to find out how much you know about preserving your mind.

Click here!
~Eowyn

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