- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
So, you are now a Senior !
Now you have become a Senior and may be also retired.
Medical science is making new advances and every year new medicines and new methods of diagnosis come in the market that helps to fight the degenerating diseases helping us to prolong the life further.
In addition, more information is now available about healthy diet, which helps us to keep healthy and prolong life.
Good Health Long Life
Every individual has different level of success.
With good health comes long life.
Instead of an average life expectancy of 65 years, in the western world, a few decades ago, now it has crossed the level of 80 years and it is rising. There is a proportionate benefit in the developing countries as well.
We already have many centenarians around us and their number is also rising.(over 800 in the last survey)
Long life gives pleasure but also can bring some sufferings.
Australian National Survey
According to Australian National Survey, 96 percent of the people over the age of 75 have some kind of disabling chronic condition.
On a national average, the percentage of people living longer after retirement is increasing every year. Longer the people live more medical and healthcare support they need. 20 percent of the population consumes more than 50 percent of the National health budget. The percentage of able body healthy tax payers who can support the national free medical and aged care is decreasing.
We cannot expect the retirees to go back to work and pay taxes as they will only take away the jobs available to younger people who need them most. The only way the retirees can contribute is by trying to live a healthy life and reduce their demands on the healthcare system.
What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is one of such old age degenerating decease which needs special consideration, medical as well as aged care.
Alzheimer’s disease attacks nerves, brain cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages to and from the brain), affecting the way you behave. It is also the most common form of Dementia. Dementia is a syndrome (a group of symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline in mental abilities.
Heart Attack – No Warning
Heart attack is bad as well as good. It comes without warning and kills in one blow. Doctors don’t have any test to tell you when and how you will be struck by a heart attack. When it strikes to a person who is the principle earner of the family, it leaves the surviving family in dyer distress.
Looking at the bright side of it, a person dying of heart attack does not have to suffer much and does not use up large amount of family saving and taxpayer funded medical facilities.
Alzheimer’s Warning Bells
Alzheimer’s Dementia on the other hand, starts ringing the alarm bell of its arrival many years ahead, that is, if you care to listen and recognise.
Alzheimer’s onset is usually gradual and progressive.
That gives you ample opportunities to prepare your defensives. It can be prevented or delayed. But once it has arrived, there is no turning back and the sufferings of the person and the family as also the medical and carer’s expenses keep rising.
Who Gets Alzheimer’s ?
According to Alzheimer’s Australia, an Australian Govt. Organisation:
A person can develop Alzheimer’s or a form of Dementia at any age. But it is more common in older age. For people aged 70 to 90, 1 in 30 has some form of Dementia, while above age 90, it is 1 person in 3 has Dementia.
Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s:
Dr. Sandra Cabot, in her book “Alzheimer’s” lists recognisable Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s:
1 – Memory loss that affects job skills.
2 – Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
3 – Problems with language.
4 – Disorientation in Time and Place.
5 – Poor or Decreased Judgement.
6 – Problems with Abstract Thinking.
7 – Continually Misplacing Things. (then accusing somebody of stealing)
8 – Changes in Mood and Behaviour.
9 – Changes in Personality.
10 – Loss of Initiative.
Note: Any of these must happen repeatedly at short intervals to be classified as a warning sign.
Alzheimer’s does not immediately kill you but it will make your life very very miserable ! The longer you live, the more miserable it makes you.
Self-diagnosis is cheap but at times it could be misleading and dangerous.
Now, if one day I forget where I put my car keys, and next day I forget where I put my wallet and then another day I forget an appointment, I must not jump to the conclusion that I have got Alzheimer’s.
As we grow old, all of our organs start becoming weaker and become inefficient in their functions. Decaying is a natural process.
Like poor eyesight or hearing, difficult to climb steps, less hunger, losing interest in something, etc. But it does not mean we are ill or affected by virus.
Brain is no exception. After the age of 65 our memory shrinks at the rate of 1% every year. So sometimes we forget something. It is a normal process of ageing.
Dr. Sandra Cabot writes: an occasional spell of forgetfulness or a periodic lapse in concentration is a perfectly normal ageing process and no cause of concern.
Effect on Brain
In a person affected by Alzheimer’s, the brain shrinks at the rate of 3% per year.
Dr. John Stevens, in his book “Is It Dementia or Just Old Age?” recommends that if we notice the symptoms appearing repeatedly we should either consult a doctor or collect real good information about Alzheimer’s/Dementia.
We need to ask questions and find the answers.
But remember, if you ask the wrong question you may get wrong answer.
To know the right answers, first we have to know what the Right questions to ask.
What is Dementia?
What is Alzheimer’s?
According to Alzheimer’s Australia, Dementias are:
1) Alzheimer’s disease
2) Vascular Dementia
3) Lewy Body Disease
4) Frontotemporal Dementia
The brain functions that are affected by various forms of Dementia include memory, orientation, comprehension, calculating ability, learning capacity, language(finding proper words or phrases), judgement, reasoning and information processing.
Alzheimer’s is one type of Dementia. There is really not much difference between the two.
Dr. Brian Draper writes: Dementia Syndrome is defined as an acquired decline of memory and thinking that results in significant impairment of personal, social and occupational functions.
These symptoms have no set pattern. They may appear at random, in various strengths in different persons.
The World Health Organisation(WHO) recommends that any of the symptoms be observed at least for six months before it is diagnosed as Alzheimer’s.
Things You Can Do and Don’t Do:
If precautions are taken in the early age of the life, Alzheimer’s can be prevented altogether. Although the onslaught of Alzheimer’s is irreversible, its slow progress means there is a chance to slow it down further or prevent it from progressing.
Jean Carper, the medical journalist with New York Times, was diagnosed having an Alzheimer’s Susceptibility Gene called ApoE4 (Apolipoprotein E 4) She spent ten years to study and research Alzheimer’s.
In her book ”100 simple things you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s” she has isolated and listed things to do or not to do, follow or consume or not consume, that will help prevent or slow down Alzheimer’s.
Her recommendations can be summarised as: Eat more fruits and vegetables, reduce or stop smoking and drinking, be extrovert and socialise, exercise brain with mind games, read and collect more information, exercise regularly with Yoga, Tai-Chi, Dancing and Aerobics, play with grandchildren, sleep regularly, etc. To summarise, eat healthy diet, keep busy and active.
How do We Protect from Alzheimer’s
In a general way we have four main sources of defence:
1 – Medicines
2 – Diet
3 – Exercise – Physical and Mental
4 – Mental activities
It may be said that the medicines which we take to fight against heart disease and diabetes must be good to fight against Alzheimer’s as they are interrelated. However, medical experts categorically deny having any medicine for Alzheimer’s. In addition, all medicines have some side effects; some the manufacturers know and tell us, some they know but don’t tell us and some they themselves don’t know.
Diet is definitely the important ally in the defence against Alzheimer’s. Nations whose staple diet includes large amounts of fruits and vegetables or those who are basically vegetarians are known to have lower rate of Alzheimer’s. Jean Carper’s one critical observation was that, by percentage, the Indian vegetarians had less cases of Alzheimer’s than the western non-vegetarians.
1) Eat Rainbow – The nature has put different colours in all fruits and vegetables. That is to indicate that they each have some special ingredient. These ingredients are useful for our health. Therefore including all these colourful fruits and vegetables in our diet will definitely help us to maintain the health of our heart, lungs and brain.
2) Curcumin - In addition those who eat curries, in which Curcumin (Turmeric - yellow powder) is one of the ingredients have ‘the lowest’ rate of Alzheimer’s. In India Turmeric is known as ‘the spice of life’ and is used in curries since many centuries. But you do not have to consume hot Indian curries to derive the benefits of Turmeric. The turmeric power by itself can be mixed with milk and drink it.(Refer: Turmeric – WikipediA)
3) Garlic contains a number of compounds with antioxidant, antibacterial and anticoagulant properties that help stop inflammation and increase circulation of blood to the brain and thus increase the health of the memory cells in the hippocampus area of the brain which retains short term memory.
Exercise in any form is beneficial for the heart, lungs and brain, health of which is important for the overall efficient function of the body. The best exercise for the seniors or aged people is walking in any form - brisk, moderate or slow, according to the capacity of the body. At least a 30 minute walk must be a part of your daily routine. In addition yoga, tai-chi, aerobics, dancing, or any such form of exercise, including light weight lifting, must be followed on regular basis. Remember, you are doing this only to maintain the health of your body and mind and not for muscle building or winning an Olympic medal.
Alzheimer’s effects brain. So obviously the phrase ‘Use It or Lose It’ which is coined for physical muscles also applies to brain. Ideally the brain is always active doing something even in sleep. However, the front part of the brain which stores long term and short term information needs special induced activity to avoid its brain cells and neurotransmitters (chemicals that carry messages to and from the brain) being attacked by degenerating plaque. Watching TV, listening to music, reading, are passive activities which gives you pleasure but has minimal benefit to exercise the brain. For this you have to engage in games and activities which require taxing your brain harder. Writing, even a daily diary or account, is better than reading. Playing games like cards (bridge), chess, darts, lawn bowls, etc. doing Sudoku, crosswords, taking part in various quiz, solving puzzles, etc. are real good exercises for the brain. The more complicated mental activity you involve, the farther you keep Alzheimer’s.
Books about Alzheimer’s/Dementia:
1) 100 Simple Things you can do to Prevent Alzheimer’s Jean Carper
2) Alzheimer’s Dr. Sandra Cabot
3) Alzheimer’s Disease (Your Guide) Jim McGuigan
4) Hard to Forget – An Alzheimer’s Story Charles P. Pierce
5) Hearing the Person with Dementia Bernie McCarthy
6) Is it Dementia or Just Old Age ? John A. Stevens
7) It’s Never Too Late to Change Your Mind Michael J. Valenzuela
8) Keeping Busy – Activities for Persons with Dementia James R Dowling
9) Understanding Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias Brian Draper
10) The 36 Hour Day Nancy L. Mace
11) The Long Good Night (Alzheimer’s story) Daphne Simpkins