Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Doctor Oz

By Uncle Hans


Uncle Hans rarely writes a serious blog, but here it is.

Rex's daughter, Amy, sent us all a copy of a recent "Dr. Oz” episode.  He is a cardiac surgeon that got started as a health and longevity expert on Oprah.  Now he has his own show.  The episode was on Alzheimer's.

        We all have been following Grandma's flight into old age with a nervous eye, thinking "could that happen to me?".  I think Amy's sending those DVD's is kind of that question for all of us.  First of all.  Dementia is a cognitive disorder of the brain that seems to affect memory the most.  If it happens in the 50's or 60's it is abnormally early and called pre-senile dementia or Alzheimer's.  If it comes, like Grandma, in the 80's when it is expected, it is called senile dementia.  The episode was very interesting in that it highlighted some new research into this problem.  The work is incomplete but very important.  It points to some causes for dementia without proving anything yet.  The problem is chemical and may be related to some foods we eat and their containing nitrates and nitrites.  These are used as preservatives in some foods.  The work is early, but interesting.

      I don't think dementia of this kind is particularly hereditary.  I think diet is a factor and these researchers will eventually unlock those secrets.  But I think dementia is related to external stimuli.  I think older people who stay connected to their friends and families, and stimulate themselves with reading, current events, and mind games or puzzles, are much less likely to develop the problem.

 "Use it or lose it".

     I see it in the older patients I have, I always make it a point to ask a few questions of the really sharp ones and they are all very busy with life.  They are aware of what is happening around them and have a wide collection of friends and family.  Grandma did watch the news and read quite a bit.  But she did not have the key factor.......close connection to friends and family.

   Isolation kills.

    Maybe it was our fault, but I think she could have reached out to many other people.  Through church, clubs, hobbies, crafts, etc.  My own bias is reading history as each book or article forces you to reach into your memory and connect the things you know and remember with the new stuff you are just reading.  Also you must connect today's current events with the history you are reading.  It is fun and it stimulates your memory automatically, without thinking about it.  Reading fiction or non-historical stuff is fun, but it ties only to that book and does not make any connections to other stuff inside your brain.

So Amy,  not to worry about Grandma's dementia.  At 83 it is expected and won't bother you if you follow the research, make the changes, and stay engaged in life.  It's easy at 35, but harder as your friends start dying at 75.

Begin to make a strategy for this today...............

By Uncle Hans


Rod Ivers said...

A very interesting post, Uncle Hans. I saw this very same effect in my mother, when she had to go to the nursing home at about 82 years old.

She was sharp and with it for about the first year, but she dwindled almost too rapidly after that. She became withdrawn from the other patients and quit watching her TV.

Eventually she went from her bed to the Geri chair and sat in almost a catatonic state. She lived there for about 10 years.

Oh yes, keep active and your mind alive, least we end up like mom........