Tuesday, October 7, 2014

To help reduce the risk

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If you've been following the blog for any length of time, you know that my grandmother is suffering from dementia.  While this severely affects the family as well as the person going through the disease, it starts your own wheels turning.  Is this genetic?  Am I going to get it?  What would I/my spouse do if one of us did?

Within the past two weeks, I had a few incidents that gave me cause for concern.  Twice in the same day as I was preparing several things in the kitchen, I turned the oven off instead of just the timer.  I set the timer for 10 minutes instead of the 15 I knew I needed to set it to.   I've never done that.  I was taking on a lot at the time and stressed out but I brought it to the Mr's attention and he said that the fact I recognized it right away was a sign to him that it was stress and nothing worse.  When you have dementia in your family, you freak out at anything that could be a sign of the disease down the line.  It's a very scary proposition and even if you could take a test for free that would tell you whether or not you're going to get it as an adult, would you want to live with that cloud hanging over you?  Would you want to know you're pre-disposed and it may or may not ever come to fruition?

For me, I am going forward assuming that I have a higher risk of getting it and am doing what I can to help reduce the risk.

Diet-  

Diet plays a big part in helping to reduce the risk.  More whole foods, less processed, etc.  This should be a rule for life but if you have dementia/Alzheimers in your family, this becomes even more important.  Lots of fruits and veggies and omega 3 fatty acids.  This is very frustrating for us as a family because some of the few times my grandparents get out of the house is when they're going out to sodium and fat laden restaurants.  I have taken a few dinners over, my aunt has bought food and left instructions for easy dinners but sometimes they are not always made or eaten in a healthy amount of time.  (Grandpa, penicillin growing on dinner means it's no good, not scrape it off and nuke it)  Oy.

Exercise-

Exercise is another huge defense to help in the battle against Alzheimers.  Keeping active is something any doctor will tell you is very important to reduce incidents of any disease, not just Alzheimers.  This is another thing that unfortunately, my grandparents aren't doing.  I don't consider walking from the parking lot to the restaurant, exercise.  He used to ride his bike all of the time and while that's not something she can do with him, they do have a very walkable neighborhood so we need to encourage him to get off his patootie with her or if he won't, then I'll just go grab her and walk around especially with the weather cooling off a bit.

High blood pressure and cholesterol- 

High blood pressure and high cholesterol may be associated with Alzheimer's risk as well.  Just another good reason to get those thing under control.  Thankfully she seems to be good on that front but with the meds comes a voracious appetite and she's gained weight.  That needs to be watched closely so these conditions don't become an issue in the future.

If you'd prefer to hear it from the horse's mouth, Alz.org says:

Regular physical exercise may be a beneficial strategy to lower the risk of Alzheimer's and vascular dementia. Some evidence suggests exercise may directly benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow. Even stronger evidence suggests exercise may protect brain health through its proven benefits to the cardiovascular system. Because of the known cardiovascular benefits, a medically approved exercise program is a valuable part of any overall wellness plan.

Like exercise, diet may have its greatest impact on brain health through its effect on heart health. The best current evidence suggests that heart-healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, also may help protect the brain. A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats.

"Brain games"

I'm sure most of you have seen commercials for pay sites who tout keeping your brain sharp.  Well, you don't have to pay for the privilege, you go here, here or here to get free brain games to help keep your memory and cognitive skills sharper.  I do them every day.  My mom and aunt have a baggie of circles there in different colors and they have her sort them into piles when they visit.  They also have her sort a deck of cards by color or suit.  It would be great if this was done with her daily.  She needs the mental stimulation.

What diseases potentially run in your family?  What, if anything, do you do as preventative measures?

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16 comments:

  1. Very good information here. I know it's scary to think about having the potential for this but we're doing everything we can do to help prevent it. Stress doesn't help and unfortunately, as you pointed out to me recently, even being excited about some events can sometimes be interpreted as stress by the body so we have to watch ourselves in those kind of instances but like I said, the fact that your recognize and understand that you made an absent minded error is a good thing as far as I'm concerned. If you had turned off the oven and then asked me why the heck the food wasn't cooking then that would have been a different story.

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    1. Yeah, yesterday I played this one AARP game and kept getting horrible results on it and wouldn't stop until I got 4 1/2 stars because I felt like it should've been easy. It scares me to death to think either of us would have to be a caregiver to the other. But at least we're thinking of these things now and making decisions on what we'd want if (God forbid) we ever had to deal with it. I will fight tooth and nail to keep that dragon far away.

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  2. I have manic depression in my family and it scares the crap outta me that I have a predisposition for it. 2 of my 5 siblings have been diagnosed with it. I understand in most cases its manageable but after growing up seeing my father suffer, I do stress about the possibility. I get plenty of rest and watch my diet and try to manage stress levels.

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    1. Thankfully predisposition doesn't mean a definite sentence. The fact you're aware can be half the battle!

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  3. Thank you so much for posting this. Especially the brain games 'cuz I'm a nerd like that! PLUS my mom had a stroke and has onset dementia, so yeah I totally relate to the whole forgetting something and then freaking out that your brain is deteriorating. LOL You have the best links. I'm so playing these games during my downtime today and bookmarking them.

    Oh, also I happened to be researching turmeric's immune boosting properties this morning and found that it also contains a compound that helps ward off Alzheimers/dementia. Not saying it's a cure-all but I will start to add to smoothies, etc since it's mostly tasteless.

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    1. You're very welcome! I get addicted to those games because I keep trying to better my score. LOL Entangled Words, Shapes and Colors and Split Words are my favorite on the AARP site. I know some people recoil in horror when that site is mentioned but anything free to keep my brain in order is fine by me!

      I think I'll add some turmeric to tonight's chicken!

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  4. Various family members have had cancer, but no two have had the same so I can't say I worry about any one in particular. My aunt has early onset Alzheimer's and that's scary, but as far as I know she's the only one on either side of the family. I actually worry more about hubby than I do about myself - my side of the family is relatively healthy but on his side it's not so rosy. That leads me to concern about my son too, but he's got my side's genes to balance it out at least.

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    1. We've got various cancers that are in the family but I'm not sure if I should be worried about those. I feel the same way about the Mr's side. There is some scary chit floating around on that side and I just know it's important for us to continue to stay on this path. It's good that your son has your genes to balance things out. We gotta keep our guys healthy!

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  5. Parkinson's disease runs in my family. Exercise has been proven to reduce symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. I exercise in hopes of keeping it at bay if I do have it. Heart disease and diabetes also run in my family, so I'm continuing my attempts to eat healthy the majority of the time.

    A healthy diet and exercise are common, simple solutions to many of the deadliest of diseases.

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    1. You're very right, diet and exercise are important components to most preventable disease!

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  6. My grandma passed away at the age of 91 and was still surprisingly sharp as a tack mentally. She was always working on a jigsaw puzzle, doing word searches, playing dominos and adding up the scores. I have often wondered if all of the brain stimulation kept her mind sharp. I will try to keep this in mind as I get older.

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    1. I'd be willing to bet you're right. Always keeping the brain active can never hurt!

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  7. Heart disease runs on both sides of the family. And as you know, now breast cancer. Mom said she is going to get the BRCA testing done - if hers is negative, I don't need to do it; if hers is positive then both me and my cousin should be tested because our chances go up exponentially. I could so relate to what you said about taking a test to determine if "down the road" this is a very real possibility. It weighs heavily on my mind every day. It's interesting to hear my husband talk about how things are dark in our house right now. You wouldn't know it because we keep the humor going, play with the dogs, etc. But there is this underlying "thing" that is just there because the hourglass continues to tick so to speak. I was surprised he could sense that -- I'm not as good at hiding it as I thought! LOL! Everything you listed for things to help are so true and they help me keep some sanity every day, just focusing on the mundane must do's.

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    1. Oh man, those tests are expensive. Hopefully hers comes back negative and you won't have to worry about it. Our spouses know our moods and not just what is said but unsaid. There are times where the Mr will exude bad juju just laying in bed and I'll say "wow, _____ is radiating off of you right now. What's the deal?" He's always stunned that I can actually feel his energy without him saying a word. Hang in there and hopefully the "thing" will lighten soon.

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  8. I'm sorry about your grandmother. I watched a close friend navigate those waters with his father and that's very difficult. This post was very informative for me- I was aware of the importance of staying mentally active, but had not thought too much about the diet and exercise components. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Have you read Grain Brain? It was written by a neurologist whose father has Alzheimer's disease (author's name is Dr. David Perlmutter). There's a lot of good info in that book on concrete steps to take to reduce our risk factors for dementia/cognitive impairment as we get older.

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