Alzheimer and Memory Loss – What’s In a Number.

“I intend to live forever. So far, so good.”  Steven Wright.

I remember when my husband and I got our first unsolicited – membership card in the mail. We were, “WHAT? WHO? WHAAA???” American Association of RETIRED Persons? We were both active, working, busy, involved in our community. One of us had just turned 50. We also kept – or, rather, paid for – the memberships: They were good for some really nice discounts.

Well, that was a long time ago.

Last year, as soon as my mother was showing undisputed indications of memory impairment, I began seeing articles about Alzheimer’s everywhere! First in the AARP magazine. But not just there. Still Alice and Can’t We Talk About Something Pleasant were making the hit parade in books and I read them both. A 60 Minutes program did a wonderful segment on it. And the buzz seems to be increasing. Last week the cover story of the NYTimes Sunday Magazine was “The Last Day of Her Life.” I won’t get into the details. It was not exactly encouraging or inspiring. (You can look it up if you’re interested.)Had my mom fallen pray to the dreaded Alzheimer’s? Or was it Mild Cognitive Impairment? Or some other form of dementia? I don’t yet know, but given the possibility of Alzheimer’s, I kept – and keep – searching for some thing she could – and can – do, some foods she could – and can – eat, anything, to help slow this down, or even reverse it.Of everything I learned, this was the most important:

Alzheimer’s disease is most commonly diagnosed after the age of 65 but changes in the brain may have begun ten to twenty years before the appearance of symptoms.

Dear Reader: How old are you? Add 20. Does that come out to 65 or higher? 

If you’re reading this blog, the sum is probably pretty close. Close enough for you to start paying careful attention to what you’re eating and your general lifestyle. When I do the simple arithmetic, the sum is significantly more than 65.

Literally last week, a NYTimes article about two linked studies, published Tuesday in JAMA, said this: “Data from nearly 9.500 people on five continents shows that amyloid can appear 20 to 30 years before symptoms of dementia. . .”

Again I ask:

Dear Reader, How old are you? Add 30. Does that come out to 65 or higher? You only have to be 35 in order to be in that low range. Chances are that you are.

For my husband and me, it’s a pretty good splash of some pretty cold water! If you don’t know how awful this disease I’m not going to be the one to tell you. Not here. You can read about it on your own. Here.

That said, with all my research, I came up with several areas in I immediately put my mom on this regimen – and we immediately looked at our own lives, what we do, what we eat, what we drink, to minimize the chances of our falling into this group.

Here’s what I learned, and here’s my list:

    • Depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety have both been linked to memory loss. I in particular watch my anxiety level  – aside from the fact that being depressed or anxious is a bummer and that anxiety is not good for blood pressure either…   Okay, easier said than done.  Just caring for an elderly parent is anxiety-producing, and add to that I live 300 miles away and have no help from my siblings. But exercise, healthy relationships, yoga, all these things help and we try to make these a part of our lives. Not committing to activities that will add to our stress.  Many studies now are studying the effect of yoga on Alzheimer’s because it relaxes the body and stimulate oxygen to the brain; research at BIDMC, my hospital here in Boston, showed diminished atrophy of the hippocampus region of the brain relative to those who did not practice yoga.Okay, my husband does not like yoga, but I do, and my goal is to go once a week but it’s rare that I can do it regularly like that. My mother goes to one yoga class at her senior village.Here’s one article that discusses the link between depression, anxiety, and Alzheimers. There are plenty of studies looking into this.
    • curcumin   We take two per day, and my mother takes two per day. Alzheimer’s rates in India are exceedingly low and this has been attributed to the heavy intake of the curcumin, the active (and orange) ingredient that is in the tumeric (which is in the curry) that is traditionally eaten.  Many studies have been done, more studies need to be done, and you can read online about these.We now have curried – and heavy on the tumeric – basmati rice on weekends and we each take two curcumin capsules weekdays. I have my mom take two curcumin capsules each day. Important to remember is that when eaten as part of cooked food, it crosses the brain barrier before it’s broken down; if you’re taking it in capsule form, the trick is to find a formulation that will also cross the brain barrier.
    • Omega 3s: Here is where we talk about salmon and other fatty fish. Studies such as at Columbia University found that the more Omega 3s a person consumes the lower the blood beta-amyloid level. Of course with Alzheimer’s we’re interested in brain levels. But the blood is a good place to begin.

      Omega 3s from food is much more effective than Omega 3s from supplements and we purchase frozen salmon filets from Costco.

    • Coconut: Some researchers have shown that coconut helps but it’s very inconclusive. Still, macaroons are great and the neuropsychologist recommended it for my mom. Indian, which has an incredibly low incidence of Alzheimer’s, has a diet rich in tumeric and also coconut. I make my mom a little fudge cube of coconut oil and sugarless chocolate chips and she has two per day, each being one tablespoon. More to follow on this.
    • Vitamin D3: Studies found a link between Vitamin D3 deficiency and Alzheimer’s. You can get your Vitamin D3 from exposure to the sun but also from foods that contain Omega 3s.My husband and I get plenty of sunlight exposure (Remember that SP30+) and we try to eat salmon several times per week – not more because of the mercury levels in salmon.My mom also takes one capsule 5000 iU D3 each day.
    • Ubiquinol is found naturally in oily fish, organ meats, whole grains, vegetable oil, and fruit. It aids energy production in the cells. “Numerous animal studies on mouse and rat models Alzheimer’s and dementia suggest that CoQ10 supplements offer benefits such as improved memory skills and cognitive abilities in mice and rats [9-11].  However, these benefits have not been replicated in clinical trials and one study in mice reported that chronic CoQ10 supplementation impaired learning and memory [6].”I have my mom taking one pill a day, no harm done, and my husband and I take one a day, but it may help us more than it helps her since we’re younger.
    • Vitamins E and C: The research is ongoing:  Vitamins E and C, which trap theseharmful antioxidants that damage parts of brain cells necessary for receiving memory signals called acetylcholine receptors. At least one clinical trial has suggested that Alzheimer’s patients benefit from vitamin E intake. Another study shows that vitamin E can protect against damage caused by amyloid proteins that accumulate abnormally in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

I eat almonds every day to keep my blood sugar low. We also eat several oranges each day: oranges have taken the place of sugary carb deserts in our home.

      • Vitamin B12, sublingual, methylcobalamin: Another nutrient that is essential and that its deficiency can cause memory loss. However, there’s no conclusive proof that taking Vitamin B12 can reverse or cure Alzheimer’s.

        My husband and I get B12 in our diet and in our One-a-Day vitamins, and I have my mom take it every day, can’t hurt.

 

And a little red wine can’t hurt!

L’Briut. To your health*!

*Hopefully also a cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s will one day be found.

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About Jane

The gravitar you see is Joey, narrator and protagonist of my book, "DOGS DON'T LOOK BOTH WAYS," 2015 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree. Recently I have been film critic for newspapers such as "The Jewish Advocate," "The Jewish Journal" and "The Newton Tab." I love to bicycle, play tennis, and swim, and to participate in local community activities. My favorites are providing food for the needy, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and literacy.
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29 Responses to Alzheimer and Memory Loss – What’s In a Number.

  1. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Jane Hanser author of Dogs Don’t Look Both Ways has just got her new WordPress blog up and running.. all of you who are over there how about heading over to give her a big, fat WP welcome…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My father in law had this years and years ago when few recognized it. Terrible disease.
    While medicine is realizing each individual has a unique chemical/body make-up, so there is no one size fits all solution to many diseases, smart to do what you can with the genetics you’ve got: eat well, exercise, and keep that brain busy. And smile. Laughter goes a long way

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane says:

      Laughter does help, but there’s that frightening zone when the person with the disease and the family and friends don’t know or understand what is happening, or why, or how to deal with it. For a very long time I thought the memory loss was due to her depression. Now I know the depression may have led to the Alzheimer’s but the Alzheimer’s now has a “life” of its own. It must have been a frightening time for you and your father-in-law, not knowing what was happening or what it’s ultimate statement would be. Thanks for sharing.

      Liked by 2 people

      • He was an MD and let slip he’d been to a neurologist and suddenly started doing word games and crossword puzzles – I read a lot and was in research and recognized what was going on as I saw him everyday – but his daughters -one refused to see it ( and she miles away) and the other too selfish to care. He was embarrassed at his decline and became very angry and violent. Not much help available way back then. So much better now with information for caregivers and facilities that are trained and able to care for the patients. It is a terrible disease.

        Like

      • Jane says:

        No, not much back then. Lucky you recognized the meaning of all the puzzles and games. I read just yesterday at the ACII Conference (going on right now) that there’s a drug being developed – being developed but not yet approved – for exactly that symptom. People’s ability to feel doesn’t diminish with this disease, so they have all these strong feelings about their decline, too. I wrote a little about on another blog and blog post about that unfortunate family dynamic you mentioned. Very sad for your father-in-law, and a person dedicated to healing others at that.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jane says:

    Thank you, Sally! I guess this makes it official!! It’s great to be here!

    Like

  4. macjam47 says:

    Very interesting article. Your mother is fortunate to have a caring daughter willing to take the time to find out what may help her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jane says:

      It doesn’t escape my attention, Michelle, the thousands of elderly who have either nobody at all, or who have relatives who don’t have relatives willing (or able) to invest the time and effort to ensure their elderly parents are comfortable where they are, and getting the best care (medical and emotional) possible. There is a lot of luck, for lack of a better word, involved in who gets loving care for the last years of their lives, and who doesn’t. Subject for another blog….

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Hi Jane, thanks so much for this info. My sister and I have become increasingly concerned about my mom’s lack of judgment in the last year. Her pysch, and her counselor have both told us she is exhibiting beginning signs of the horrible disease that killed her mother. On the other hand, she took an Alzheimer screening, and passed with flying colors, so now she discounts what the pyschiatrist, and the counselor have both said. sigh, We know it won’t get any easier.
    Melinda

    Like

    • Jane says:

      Sure but probably on some level she’s a bit concerned too. If she’s at all willing to change her diet… There are so many tests and various ways of screening and actual Alzheimer’s is hard to prove: They just ask particular questions and depending on the answers determine which parts of the brain are not functioning to capacity. Of course the results not mean that there still isn’t Alzheimer’s disease present, just that she’s still functioning rather well. (My mom also passed with flying colors one time when she was given a short test.) Remember my post – that it takes 20+ years for the symptoms to manifest themselves. There are medicines that can slow its progression in its early stages but if she’s not willing… Well, you should be on the lookout. There are drugs in clinical trials now to actually reverse this dreaded disease… Thanks for sharing. It helps us all.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Barrow Blogs: and commented:
    Thoughtful post

    Like

  7. Thank you Jane, interesting thoughts. I have lived with and looked after two relatives with dementia/Alzeimers. It was a hard time for the family (at one time we had four generations under our roof) Still, I was proud of the compassion and care that our children showed as they grew. Now my mother a bright, funny woman in her time, is just a shell. We travel 240 miles to see her in the care home she’s been in for the last six months. Yesterday I sat for four hours waiting for her to wake up. When she did, she didn’t know me, didn’t focus. I don’t know what the answer is to this horrible disease. It makes me angry and afraid – afraid for my husband, and, I have to admit, afraid for myself. But mostly I’m afraid for our children. Now adults with their own lives I really do not want them to go through that which we have. So, although it is probably too late, we will follow the excellent suggestions. in your post – and hope for the best.

    Like

    • Jane says:

      You’ve said so much in this short response. Judith, that’s amazing, your traveling just to sit there and be by her unresponsive side. That you raise children to be compassionate toward others and to express that compassion is a credit and worth my emphasizing the importance of in this “me” world of ours. Just yesterday… This shows how widespread this problem is and why a pharmaceutical breakthrough on a cure is urgently needed. I’m glad you approve of the suggestions and I hope you’re able to have a good day today. The weather is certainly encouraging… Thanks for all your input.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you Jane. I am proud of my children. And I have great memories of the laughs Mum and I shared. But you’re right, finding a way to halt this disease is desperately needed – for everyone.

        Like

  8. Good ideas, all of them! I’d be interested in knowing more, from a truly reputable source, about the differences between prescription D2 supplements and OTC D3. Also, from what I’ve read, you need about 15 minutes a day in sunshine WITHOUT the SPF-anything (be sure to apply it liberally thereafter!) The marked increase in vitamin D deficiency has been linked to our better use of sunscreens (which no one suggests we ought to forego!).

    I think I do pretty well with my diet in most respects (and that’s good news – I do worry about memory loss/cognitive impairment any time I catch myself searching for keys or glasses, only to realize they’re clutched in my fist or sitting atop my head!)

    Like

    • Jane says:

      That’s a good question, Holly. I don’t know, and we’re both in the same position now of wanting to know and probably going online! Interesting thought about the D deficiencies associated with the use of sunscreens. Hmm. I’ll have to look into this because I use a LOT of sunscreen. I wonder if people even spend as much time outdoors as in the past, a possible additional factor. I know women are urged to take D to help absorb calcium as their tendency toward osteoporosis is also greater. You can relax: Finding your glasses on top of your head or your keys in your hand is not indication of Alzheimer’s!!!

      BTW I’m looking into recipes for main dishes or side dishes with coconut oil that do not use sugar, ie not deserts. I’ve found a few and we’re going to add those to our food list. Tonight had wonderful Jaipur vegetables on rice. Wonderful curried dish with lots of vegetables and other spices.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that’s an issue, too – simply not spending enough time outdoors. Kids, too. Stuck inside with TV and video games and admonished to slather on sunscreen every five minutes. Again, that last is good advice if they’re going to be out for more than 15!

        I have a jar of Nutiva Coconut Oil, and not being a huge fan of coconut or cooking with oil, I found that I like it best straight off the spoon. It’s light and even feels like a nice moisturizer on your lips or skin. It’s not even heavily coconut flavored, but it does have a slight sweetness that makes it a little odd for something like frying an egg. Experiment with it a bit, though. They suggest using it as a spread on bread, too, instead of butter, and some people even like it in their coffee (not my favorite way to drink coffee, but it’s okay).

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Jane says:

    Strsight off the spoon? I Haven’t the nerve to try that yet (!) although I made my mother do that until I found the recipe for cubes made in an ice cube tray of equal parts of coconut oil & sugarless Hershey’s chocolate chips, which she just loves. I need for her to find a way she will eat 4 tablespoons of coconut oil each day. But I will find the guts to try it off the spoon, a la peanut butter, when I visit her tomorrow!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You may be pleasantly surprised! (Not that I don’t like the idea of mixing it with chocolate! Costco sells these truffles that are quite addictive – we took to calling them palm kernel oil blobs – and I imagine they’d be just as lovely made with coconut oil. But the calories! Oh, the calories!) I could eat four tablespoons of coconut oil. and I can’t even imagine gagging down any other sort of oil and am not that fond of coconut, so that’s saying something! 🙂

      Like

      • Jane says:

        Thanks for the info, Holly. Anyone who wants truffles – addictive coconut oil truffles – head on over to Costco!

        (BTW I tried the plain coconut oil.. It’s going to take a lot more work for me to eat it plain!) Am I being repetitive? Am I being repetitive? Current Rx for my mom is 1cup coconut oil, 1cup sugarless Hershey’s chocolate chips (sugar-free are available only online through Walgreen’s), mix and melt, then put in ice cute tray. Makes 16 (Remember folks 16T per cup) and each cube has 1T coconut oil. But who’s counting, right?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, it was worth a try, right? 🙂 I can eat it plain, no problem – but your way does sound better. I think I’d try it with the semi-sweet morsels, since I have no particular need to avoid sugar (other than calories). Do you freeze or chill them in the fridge?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Jane says:

        Holly, I’m recommending the sugar-free chocolate chips here on this blog post because of the relationship between Alzheimer’s and blood sugar. The original recipe was from Dr. Mary Newport and she had plain, probably semi-sweet, chocolate chips. But since then, there’s been research about sugar and its relationship to Alzheimers so for my mom, I have substituted the sugar-free chips by Hershey’s. Remember, the recommendation is 3-4 T per day of the coconut oil and each cube has 1T coconut oil. Hershey’s is the only company that makes them, as of this writing. If you do not eat sugar exccessively, then it’s not an issue, but many do and are at risk, and each of these cubes has also 1T of the chips, 4 per day, every day, it adds up. Here’s a link to the original study at the University of Washington.

        https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/high-blood-sugar-linked-dementia-2/

        Liked by 1 person

      • Understandable! And the oil probably sweetens it enough. But yes, I don’t have high blood sugar. It’s normally around 90-110. Not an issue at this point. I HAVE noticed that sugar tends to make me stupid – like, forget my own name stupid. Always has, though – and right after stupid comes excessively sleepy.

        Liked by 1 person

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