Alzheimer’s: Why Are We Doing So Little?

I love TED Talks!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go to TED.com and search for anything — but please come back.  TEDMED extends into the world of medicine and wellness, which is where the video below is from.

Gregory Petsko, Chair of the Department of Biochemistry at Brandeis University, gives a presentation on Alzheimer’s disease that is easy to understand and with a sense of urgency.  In the video, Dr. Petsko tries to answer the question, “Why, in the face of this oncoming tsunami of Alzheimer’s, are we doing so little?”  He then offers four possible answers.

1.  Stigma.  The way Alzheimer’s impacts the brain and ultimately the actions of the afflicted can come across as a mental illness.  They act strange and we don’t know what to do with them — so we pretend they’re not there and they become invisible.

2.  We all get senile as we get older right?  Wrong.  But so many people accept the senility of an Alzheimer’s sufferer as normal.  It’s not.

3.  Alzheimer’s patients are not able to advocate for themselves.  They can barely communicate effectively  — how would they ever launch a plan to improve care and funding for this disease?

4.  The caregivers who are caring for their loved ones are just too tired and overwhelmed to take on anything else.

So who will speak up for Alzheimer’s disease to garner more attention and funding? 

Perhaps it’s people like you and I who are watching our loved ones succumb to this disease, but who still have a VOICE.  Rather than wait and hope the disease doesn’t find us, what if we were proactive in our efforts to fight this disease?  And what if our fight made such an impact that funding and research was increased and the number of Alzheimer’s sufferers was decreased?

Learn more about what you can do to help elevate Alzheimer’s from a disease to a cause by becoming an advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association.  I have joined the cause.  I don’t know what I’m going to do yet, but I’ve joined.

This is a 16 minute video that’s packed with information.  Check it out to see why I now imagine little garbage trucks going to the recycle bin inside my brain rather than the garbage dump.

Alzheimer’s Disease is Killing My Mom

Alzheimer’s disease is killing my mom.  Sounds harsh, but it’s true.  It’s deliberately taking over my mom’s brain like a wildfire out of control.  It’s an insidious, controlled blaze that is slowly and methodically destroying the parts of her brain responsible for memory, language, reasoning, walking, swallowing and eventually breathing. It’s a long drawn out death that will most likely have my mom in a vegetative state near the end.

Nothing will put out this fire except the fire itself when it destroys it’s host.

In describing the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease, alzheimersillness.com says,

In this final stage of disease progression, many individuals enter a catatonic-like state, and they are suffering from the worst effects of Alzheimer’s disease. They lose their ability to speak and respond to others, though occasionally words may be uttered. They are unable to sit up, smile, swallow, hold their head up, and their reflexes become abnormal and muscles get rigid. Eventually this end stage leads to death, typically about eight years after they were diagnosed with the disease.

 

I’m telling you this because we forget that Alzheimer’s is a terminal illness.  Well, I know I did — rather, I was in denial about it.  The symptoms of Alzheimer’s shift the focus from terminal illness to memory impairment and strange behavior.   It becomes real easy to focus on how the Alzheimer’s sufferer is no longer normal and how we are coping with the abnormal behavior, rather than acknowledging they are dying a long drawn out death.

We are complacent when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease.  We hear the term all the time and many of us come to believe it’s a natural part of aging, but it’s not.

Quick — what do you think of when I say Alzheimer’s disease?  If you’re like me, you think of memory loss.  But that’s just the first of 7 stages of the disease, with death being the last.   What if I told you that 42.3 million people worldwide will die from brain cancer in the year 2020.  Scary right?  This isn’t true, but if you replace the words brain cancer with Alzheimer’s, that would be true.

Alzheimer’s is a deadly disease not a memory disease.

There is no cure.  Which means my mom is dying.

Yes, I’m angry about this.

Come back tomorrow for “10 Reasons I’m Grateful for Alzheimer’s Disease”

 

Coffee May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s

              

I have been reading that drinking a few cups of coffee everyday could prove beneficial in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.  Now there’s a new study out that further supports this claim.

The people at Science Daily say,

Those cups of coffee that you drink every day to keep alert appear to have an extra perk – especially if you’re an older adult. A recent study monitoring the memory and thinking processes of people older than 65 found that all those with higher blood caffeine levels avoided the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in the two-to-four years of study follow-up. Moreover, coffee appeared to be the major or only source of caffeine for these individuals.

And,

Moderate daily consumption of caffeinated coffee appears to be the best dietary option for long-term protection against Alzheimer’s memory loss,” Dr. Arendash said. “Coffee is inexpensive, readily available, easily gets into the brain, and has few side-effects for most of us. Moreover, our studies show that caffeine and coffee appear to directly attack the Alzheimer’s disease process.

Drink up!  But try to avoid cream and sugar if you can.  If you only give up one — give up sugar.

Read more about “High blood caffeine levels in older adults linked to avoidance of Alzheimer’s disease” and other related news articles on caffeine and Alzheimer’s.

 

 

The Stages of Alzheimer’s and My Mom

Narrated by David Hyde Pierce from Frasier, the clear and concise video below has helped me understand the approximate stage of Alzheimer’s my mom is in.   The brain function descriptions without all the medical gobbly goop is as refreshing as it is educational.

It’s obvious that my mom’s Alzheimer’s is progressing along the described path.   According to this video, there are 7 steps in the progression of the disease, and I would say that my mother is in Stage 4, moving into Stage 5.  This is how the video description is playing out in my mom’s life:

1.  Mom has zero short term memory.  She doesn’t remember what she did yesterday, 2 hours ago, or 2 minutes ago.  She repeats herself quite a bit.

2.  Mom’s words are disappearing.   She has great difficulty forming coherent sentences and uses “filler” words and phrases to help with communication.  Quite often, the end of her sentences have nothing to do with the beginning.

3.  Mom can no longer solve problems, grasp concepts and make plans .  She can’t be left alone because her lack of judgement and problem solving makes her a risk to herself.  She is not able to accomplish a task without one on one guidance.

4.  Mom has become more emotional and I hear that she has her moods, but unfortunately, I haven’t been with her enough lately to witness her mood swings.

The remaining stages are approaching quickly, as there’s already been incidence of hallucinations. The average Alzheimer’s course is 8 to 10 years, and my mom is in her 7th.

Click on the video below to see how Alzheimer’s disease moves through the brain.

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

What’s Alzheimer’s?  It had to happen sooner or later, so it may as well be now.  This is dry stuff, but it’s short and to the point. Stick with me.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. Derived from Latin, dementia literally means “without mind”. There are static forms of dementia caused by a single event such as a traumatic brain injury, and there are progressive forms caused by disease that result in a slow deterioration of the brain. Alzheimer’s is the latter and accounts for roughly 60 – 80 percent of all dementia cases.

Alzheimer’s disease is named after Aloysius Alzheimer, a German neuropathologist who is credited with publishing the first case of “presenile dementia” in 1906. Since then, scientists have learned that Alzheimer’s is characterized by two unusual types of neuron damage in the brain: Plaques and Tangles. While there is not a consensus on plaques and tangles being the cause or the result of Alzheimer’s, they are described the following way.

Plaques are a sticky protein fragments called beta-amyloid that builds up in between nerve cells.

Tangles are tangled fibers of a protein called tau (as in “wow”) that build up inside cells.

Most people develop some form of plaques and tangles as they age, but people with Alzheimer’s tend to develop far more and at a faster rate. Plaques and tangles can form throughout the brain as part of the normal aging process, but the part of the brain important to memory is the initial target in people with Alzheimer’s before spreading to other regions.

So far, scientists do not know the exact role the plaques and tangles play in Alzheimer’s disease. But most experts believe they play a crucial role in blocking communication among neurons and disrupting critical processes that are responsible for cell survival.

It’s the destruction and death of these nerve cells, believed to be caused by plaques and tangles, that results in memory failure, personality changes, and difficulties carrying out activities of daily living that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.

And now you know! Thank you for reading to the end. : )

For more information, go to Alzheimer’s Disease Research.

The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention

Corinthian columns standing tall on a sunny day.

Contrary to popular belief, memory loss is neither a normal nor natural process of aging. But, if you want to maintain the strength and vitality of your brain as you age, you must take a proactive role. Just as your body needs strength-building exercise to keep your muscles fit, so does your brain.

There is so much information about Alzheimer’s disease and prevention, that it’s hard to keep track of it all.   “The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention” from the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation helps to keep it simple.
The 4 Pillars are:

1. Diet and Supplements
2. Stress Management
3. Exercise (and Brain Gymnastics)
4. Medicines

The first 3 pillars are more preventive while the last one is more of an attempt to slow down progression after diagnosis.

Go to The 4 Pillars of Alzheimer’s Prevention to learn more.