Search Results for: lifestyle dementia

Comfortably Numb or All Jacked Up: Prescription Addiction May Lead to Developing Lifestyle Dementia

Uppers and Downers and Lifestyle DementiaPrescription addiction is a national problem in the United States. Although there has been some public acknowledgement of its existence in general terms recently, the real scope of how deep and pervasive prescription addiction is in this country is still mostly hidden from public view.

Because of this, Big Pharma and the medical profession still pushes the two classes of drugs – central nervous system (CNS) depressants (“downers”) and central nervous system (CNS) stimulants (“uppers”) – at the core of prescription addiction insistently and without restraint. Continue reading

“Smart Drugs” (Nootropics) – A Precursor to the Development of Lifestyle Dementia?

Nootropics (smart drugs, brain enhancers, mental magic) fundamentally alter brain chemistry and may be a precursor to developing lifestyle dementiaThis blog has discussed the use of drugs designed for specific kinds of attention-deficit disorders being used by people without an attention-deficit disorder for cognitive enhancement and the risk such usages portends toward an eventual development of lifestyle dementia.

Anything that alters brain chemistry (legal or illegal) introduces the risk of dementia down the road. We must understand that. It seems, however, that we – both the medical community who blithely prescribes these legal brain-altering chemical compositions and we the people, who decide for ourselves and choose to take both legal and illegal brain-altering chemical compositions because they seem to promise a short-term benefit (or because we want to numb our brains and not deal with life as it is and comes) – don’t understand that. Continue reading

Technology and Neurology – A Perfect Storm For A Lifestyle Dementia

Technology can have devastating effects on the brainIn my book review of The End of Absence by Michael Harris, we see how an increasingly constant interaction with, reliance on, and addiction to technology is creating devastating effects on us neurologically.

Among these effects are dementia-like symptoms: loss of short-term memory, easy distraction, lack of focus, loss of critical thinking skills, and loss of executive functions.

These effects are happening to people all around us just like you and me. The effects don’t discriminate: even the very young are affected just as profoundly as others of varying ages.

In Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, a book everybody should read, the discussion centers on the neurological effects of 24/7 technology connection in the actual composition of the brain.

The research and the science is sobering, especially in light of how it points to the emergence of another lifestyle dementia that is already beginning to affect people, and will increasingly affect vast numbers of people at earlier and earlier ages.

Lifestyle dementias are dementias we choose because we adopt or don’t control or eliminate the lifestyle factors that cause the dementias.

Alcohol abuse and addiction is one of those lifestyle choices. How we treat our bodies (food, exercise, etc.) is another lifestyle choice. The quality and quantity of our sleep is yet another lifestyle choice.

And our relationship with technology presents even one more lifestyle choice. A recent Pew Research Center survey revealed that 20% of Americans report that they are online almost constantly.

That is 1 in every 5 people here in the United States. It is not surprising to me, but it is disturbing to me for many reasons. 

Because my whole career has been intricately involved with technology, I’m uniquely qualified to discuss this since I’ve always made choices to limit my exposure, instinctively, I suppose, realizing the dangers, and I continue to do so because my brain, for better or worse, is the best asset I have and I don’t want my choices to be the reason I lose any functionality it has.

The neuroplasticity of the brain is negatively changed by overexposure to technologyOverexposure to technology completely rewires our brains (neuroplasticity) and not in positive ways. It literally changes our neural pathways, eliminating the ones we don’t use and creating new ones.

Different parts of the brain are stimulated with how we receive information.

Images light up a different area of the brain than words do. Technology lights up a totally different area of the brain than either images or words do.

Which area of our brains get lit up the most often is the part of the brain that becomes dominant and we use the other parts less and less.

Brain cells (neurons) that don't get used die permanently.With disuse, those parts we don’t use begin to die at the cellular level, eventually creating the same kinds of synaptic gaps that are common among dementias.

The brain is the only organ in which there is no cellular regenation. Once the cells in the brain die, they’re gone for good. With time, this cellular death becomes widespread and we experience dementia.

The problem with our increasing interaction exclusively with technology (smart phones and tablets have definitely made this easier) is that technology is purposefully designed to stimulate the part of the brain that deals with emotions.

Because of the emotional stimulation that technology elicits, it consistently bypasses logical, analytic processing of information and the desire and ability to discern between what’s true and false, what’s right and wrong, and what’s valuable and what’s not.

The effect on us is that we are unaware of what’s happening tethered-to-technology-going-gentle-into-that-good-nightbehind the scenes to our brains as we’re tethered to technology, so we don’t realize we’re not logically and analytically processing information coming in and that we’re rapidly losing the desire and ability to discern between what is true and false, what is right and wrong, and what is valuable and what is not.

It is simply disappearing without our awareness that we’re losing the very things that make us unique as humans and which are the most precious gifts we have been given.

The end result is that in the short term we become shallow (gullible, unthinking, ignorant, and imprisoned in a shrinking world that is simply a mirrored reflection of our narcissistic selves) and in the long term that we lose our cognitive abilities altogether.

It’s not to late for most of us to turn this around and do everything in our power to make choices that will stave off this lifestyle dementia. 

But each of us has to make the choice for ourselves. Some of us won’t. Some of us don’t believe this is happening. Some of us don’t care.

However, for those that will, that do believe this is happening, and that do care, here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Unplug from everything at a set time every day and stick to it. Replace the time that you would have spent with technology with an activity that involves the other parts of your brain. These can include hobbies, reading, putting together jigsaw puzzles, playing board games or cards with other people, crossword puzzles, sudoku, and other types of brain-intensive puzzles.
  2. Don’t stay plugged in all day. Do what you need to do (check social media, email, texts, etc.) at set time-delimited times each day (I generally check mine early morning, noon, and 6 pm, giving myself 15 minutes each time and no more). Otherwise, I’m off the grid and working on other productive things.
  3. Unplug completely for 24 hours each week. No phone, no internet, no social media, no nothing. And do something else entirely away from it all. This may, especially if we’re addicted to technology, be quite uncomfortable and unsettling at first (generations before us lived this way and they not only survived just fine, but I suspect they were happier and better off), but eventually you will absolutely crave your unplugged 24 hours and it may lead you to more complete unplugging than that in time.

We only get one brain in our lives. Everything we do supports it or destroys it. Once destruction happens, it’s permanent and it can’t be undone.

Let’s make sure we’re doing everything in our power with our choices to support our brains and not destroy them.

Alcohol-Related Dementia: A Lifestyle Dementia

pouring-shots-alcohol-related-dementia

In “Lifestyle Dementia: Underdiscussed, Overlooked, But a Very Real and Present Danger,” and “Is the Precipitous Rise in Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease Over the Last Twenty to Thirty Years Linked to Lifestyle?,” we see that certain lifestyle factors and choices can make the likelihood of developing dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease more probable.

Two lifestyle factors that can contribute to the development of dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease – and the onset of these is usually before age 65 – are chronic, long-term alcohol abuse and alcoholism. This type of dementia is called alcohol-related dementia and can manifest itself in various forms.

This post will take a look at how chronic, long-term alcohol abuse and alcoholism affects the brain and what the behaviors and symptoms of the dementia looks like.

We all know that drinking enough alcohol at one time impairs the brain. Common symptoms include slurring words, exhibiting general motor impairment, including stumbling and walking off-balance, making poor decisions (like driving, for example), being less able to hear sound at a normal volume, experiencing vision problems, and being unable to think clearly. 

These behaviors occur because alcohol depresses the central nervous system , causing it to slow down its responses and reactions. The brain stem (made up of the Pons, Medulla, and Midbrain), which regulates breathing, heart rate, lifestyle dementia alcohol related going gentle into that good nightand consciousness, as well all other areas of the brain are affected by alcohol:

  • Frontal – involved in movement, problem-solving, concentrating, thinking, mood, behavior, and personality
  • Temporal – involved in hearing, language, and memory
  • Parietal – involved in sensation awareness, language, perception, attention, and body awareness 
  • Occipital – involved in vision and perception
  • Cerebellum – involved in posture, balance, and coordination of movement

Chronic, long-term alcohol abuse and alcoholism have even more devastating – and permanent – effects on the brain, eventually leading to alcohol-related dementia.

Usually the first noticeable symptoms of chronic, long-term alcohol abuse and alcoholism are cognitive. Memory loss is common, but a unique feature of memory loss with people who are chronic, long-term alcohol abusers or alcoholics is confabulation.

Confabulation occurs when, instead of recalling accurate memories because of the damage to the brain, the person distorts, makes up, and misinterprets memories about themselves, others, and the world around them.

As difficult as it is to believe for those on the receiving end of confabulation, there is no conscious intent to be dishonest. It is simply the result of extensive neurological damage.

One of the most challenging aspects of people who confabulate is that although they are giving blatantly false information, the information can appear to be coherent, internally consistent, and relatively normal.

People who confabulate have incorrect memories that run the gambit from slight, almost imperceptible changes to the most outlandish made-up stories you can imagine.

The maddening thing about this is that they generally very confident – to the point of arguing down anyone (because they know the memory is fabricated) who tries to correct or challenge them – about their recollections, despite overwhelming concrete evidence that contradicts them.

Other signs of alcohol-related dementia emerge as:

  1. Inappropriate behavior, including words and actions
  2. Loss of executive function, including organizing and planning
  3. Slowed thinking, reactions, and speaking
  4. Garbled speech
  5. Trouble executing basic skills functions like adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing
  6. Decreased ability to concentrate
  7. Decreased ability to complete tasks
  8. Trouble with balance
  9. Diminished hearing

With alcohol-related dementia, as with all other dementias, the person who has alcohol-related dementia loses the self-awareness that anything is wrong, both neurologically and behaviorally.

Most cases of alcohol-related dementia involve global neurological deterioration. Everything is affected.

However, two very specific types of alcohol-related dementia, Wernicke encephalopathy and Korsakoff syndrome (known together as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome), which are the result of a vitamin B1 (thiamine) deficiency, have key features specific to them. There can be some reversal of symptoms with B1 (thiamine) therapy, but there is still permanent neurological damage and concurrent alcohol-related dementia.

Wernicke encephalopathy (commonly known as “wet brain”) causes damage in the thalamus and hypothalamus. Its symptoms include:

  • alcohol-related dementia Wernicke encephalopathy going gentle into that good nightSevere confusion and decreased mental activity that can lead to comas and death
  • Loss of muscle coordination (ataxia) that can cause tremors in the legs
  • Vision deterioration including abnormal eye movements, drooping eyelids, and persistent double vision

As symptoms of Wernicke encephalopathy disappear, Korsakoff syndrome symptoms appear. These include:

  • Loss of ability to form new memories
  • Moderate to severe loss of all memories
  • Confabulation
  • Visual and auditory hallucinations  

Malcolm Young, the 61-year-old co-founder and guitarist for the band AC/DC, has been moved to a nursing home and his family has confirmed this week that he has dementia (he’s unable to remember any of the band’s songs).

Young’s addiction to alcohol is well-known. Although he sought rehabilitation treatment for alcoholism during the band’s tour in 1988, it appears that he malcolm young ac/dc dementia going gentle into that good nightrelapsed (the statistics on the efficacy of alcohol rehab are grim: from 50 to 90% of people who’ve been through treatment relapse, often, over a period of time, habitually consuming even more alcohol than they did before entering treatment) and never sought treatment again.

In April of this year, Young was hospitalized with what was described to the media as a stroke (chronic alcohol abuse has very detrimental effects on blood, including causing the platelets to clump together and form clots, and these clots, when they travel to the brain are responsible for strokes), so this would be entirely consistent with what we know about Young’s lifestyle. 

There are systemic physiological effects of chronic, long-term alcohol abuse and alcoholism, including nerve damage in the arms and legs (peripheral neuropathy), liver damage (cirrhosis), heart damage, and kidney damage.

Concurrent with all of that is the irreversible neurological damage to the brain that results in alcohol-related dementia, which can emerge as early as 30 years of age, but more commonly begins emerging after the age of 50 in chronic, long-term alcohol abusers and alcoholics.

Drinking alcohol in moderation is fine. But I urge you to take an honest look at your drinking patterns and behavior. If you find that you are a chronic, long-term alcohol abuser or an alcoholic, then it’s time today to find a way to stop drinking alcohol for good.

But no one else can do that for you. Only you can make the choice to stop drinking alcohol and then follow through with actually doing it for the rest of your life. 

And here’s the key: until the rest of your life becomes more important than alcohol, you will be unsuccessful at choosing and taking action to stop drinking alcohol.

Because you are the only one who can take the action, every time you drink alcohol, as a chronic, long-term alcohol abuser or an alcoholic, you show yourself and the rest of the world the choice you’re making and you show yourself and the rest of the world what the most important thing in your life is.

And no one can change that but you.

Lifestyle Dementia: Underdiscussed, Overlooked, But a Very Real and Present Danger

Today’s post will discuss lifestyle dementia. Many of the people, especially the elderly and very elderly, suffering from dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease today either have the genetic markers for it or – and this is my opinion, but I see strong evidence to support it with the precipitous explosion of dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease – are suffering from the effects of living on a toxic earth, eating toxic food, and breathing toxic air.

However, another group of dementia sufferers is emerging.

They are younger and have very different lifestyles than their elderly and very elderly counterparts with whom they share the same commonalities of dementia. This group of people has dementia that is directly related to lifestyle.

How we live our lives is a series of choices that we make consciously or unconsciously along the way. That is what becomes our lifestyle. Our lifestyle – all of those choices – has short-term effects and long-term effects. 

The long-term effects of those lifestyle choices are beginning to be seen in the growing number of people suffering with lifestyle dementia. One of the generations most noticeably – and disproportionate to the incidence in the expected populations of the elderly and very elderly – affected is the Baby Boomer generation (people born between 1943 and 1960, according to William Strauss and Neil Howe in their book The Fourth Turning, which I highly recommend that everyone read).

I strongly suspect that one of the lifestyle choices, which I’ll discuss later, that was prevalent with this generation during the 1960’s and early 1970’s is a key contributor to the development of the lifestyle dementia we see emerging among this age group today.

Before we proceed with describing lifestyle choices that could lead to lifestyle dementia, it’s important to understand what the word dementia describes. Any loss of function of and/or damage to the internal components of the brain (neurological, chemical, or physical) falls under the broad category of dementia when describing the brain’s condition.

(Inset note: Alzheimer’s Disease is the shrinkage of the size of the brain from the outside in, brought on by a specific condition that occurs in the nerve cells of the brain. Therefore, it’s important to remember that all people suffering from dementia don’t necessarily have Alzheimer’s Disease, while all people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease have a very specific kind of dementia, commonly called tangles and plaques.)

So dementia is a condition – or  state – of the brain. Like many nouns, this condition or state has adjectives that describe where the loss of function or damage is or specific identified abnormalities of the brain that affect function and cognition. Therefore, when we see the term vascular dementia, for example, the loss of function and/or damage to the brain is related to the blood vessels in the brain. 

So what kind of lifestyle choices can lead to lifestyle dementia?

diabetes-insulin-dementiaIn the last twenty to thirty years, the western world has adopted a supersized fast-food diet, a very sedentary lifestyle, and an “ignorance is bliss” attitude toward taking care of their health with regular medical checkups and changes in their lifestyles to address health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Unchecked or uncontrolled, both high blood pressure and diabetes directly affect the health of the blood vessels in the brain, leading to widespread blood vessel damage and neurological cell death, which is the cause of vascular dementia. 

alcoholAnother lifestyle choice that can lead to lifestyle dementia is alcohol abuse. While it’s generally believed that alcohol doesn’t directly kill brain cells, alcohol abuse creates key vitamin deficiencies that adversely affect the brain and adversely affects the liver’s ability to remove toxins from the body. Research shows that women who abuse alcohol begin to exhibit the adverse effects in half the time that men who abuse alcohol do.  

This article from the National Institute of Health gives a very clear and understandable explanation of how alcohol abuse results in long-term damage to the brain. The specific type of dementia that occurs with alcohol abuse is Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which occurs because of a thiamine (B1) deficiency.

A third lifestyle choice that can lead to lifestyle dementia is drug abuse. I noted earlier that one lifestyle choice seems to point to why there is such a high incidence of older Baby Boomers showing signs of dementia at earlier ages than their elderly and very elderly counterparts do. I believe that this phenomenon has a direct correlation to the pervasive and unabashed drug experimentation within this age group in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

A few years ago, I watched a documentary entitled The Drug Years on the History Channel (it was originally produced by the Sundance Channel and VH1). If you have not seen it, you should (Netflix and Hulu subscribers will find it in the Documentaries section). It’s shocking in some ways, but very informative in others. If you’re like me, you’ll watch it shaking your head a lot. But there’s a lot of history that explains things before some of us (like me) were born or cognizant and it also explains our continuing prevalent and unabashed drug culture in the U.S. today.

The series had a lot of commentary by Martin Torgoff, who wrote 2005’s Can’t Find My Way Home: America in the Great Stoned Age 1945-2000. Intrigued by the title (the first part of the title is the mind-altering drugstitle of one of my favorite songs by the band Traffic), I read the book after watching the documentary. I don’t believe that any book I’ve ever read scared me as much as Torgoff’s book did. And as much head-shaking as I did during the documentary, I did even more reading this book.

As Torgoff described the drug abuse of the 1960’s and early 1970’s and quoted well-known and not-so-well-known people about their own drug use and abuse, it became evident that there was an uninhibited desire to find, use, and abuse any substance that substantially altered the brain. The more altered the brain was, the “better” the experience.

With the psychedelic agents in LSD, acid, psilocybin mushrooms, and peyote, perceptions became altered, hallucinations occurred, and illusions became real.  In short, this generation liberally sought every possible means of chemically inducing the manifestations of dementia. In the process, neurological damage occurred and now, with age, the effects of that damage are becoming more evident with the emergence of lifestyle dementia.

To be clear and to be fair, I’m not saying that every case of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia or other types of dementia occurring at a younger-than-usual age is the result of drug abuse. That’s much too broad a brush stroke to paint with. But a recent study showed a pretty strong link between dementia and teenage/young adult lifestyle choices for people without a family history of the diseases.

And the neurological damage from this lifestyle choice continues with the use of more modern drugs like Ecstasy, Adderall, and “bath salts,” which are psychoactive and which stimulate the brain beyond its normal capacity and can produce hallucinations, seizures, and even death.

Bath salts, which have become popular in the last couple of years, permanently create irreversible neurological damage because of the simultaneous and voluminous suckerpunch all at once to the brain with the chemical effects of amphetamines and cocaine.

It remains to be seen, although it certainly will occur, what lifestyle dementias develop among the Millennials using these drugs today.

Some things happen to us in life through no fault of our own. However, we have choices in how we live our lives, and we can make positive lifestyle choices that, while they may not preclude any of us from developing Alzheimer’s Disease and dementias down the road, will ensure that we’ve done every within our power to ensure that our choices and actions haven’t contributed to it.

Lifestyle Factors That Affect the Risk of Developing Dementias

There are many lifestyle factors within our control that can increase our risk of developing dementias if we don’t make the right choices about them now.

Lifestyle Facts that Affect the Risk of Developing Dementias

Will Poor Sleep and Sleep Deprivation Now Lead to a Lifestyle-Related Dementia Later?

restorative sleep dementias going gentle into that good nightThe answer is “probably.”

There have been several studies in the last two years on the effects – positive and negative – of sleep on the brain. They all agree on one point: to function optimally, the brain requires quality sleep and enough of it.

They also agree on another point: the way our modern society is structured, the majority of us are not getting enough sleep, and the little sleep we are getting is not quality sleep.

The fact that poor sleep and future dementia are linked is not new.

A sleep disorder known as REM sleep behavior disorder is a key characteristic of Lewy Body dementia, but the sleep disorder is often present decades before symptoms of Lewy Body dementia emerge.

In a study published in the The Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011, researchers showed a strong link between sleep apnea (sleep-disordered breathing) and dementia.

However, new research is now showing that even those of us without these two sleep disorders are getting less sleep and the sleep we do get is not quality sleep. New neurological research is showing us how important enough sleep and good sleep is for our present and future neurological help.

circadian-rhythm-sleepThe body has a natural circadian rhythm designed to promote and facilitate sleep as daylight turns into evening and then night and to promote and facilitate wakefulness as night turns into day.

Until the Industrial Revolution, which actually consists of two iterations (one in the late 18th century and the second, which was the more profound of the two, in the mid-19th century, the human race generally slept and awakened based on the body’s natural circadian rhythm.

After the second iteration of the Industrial Revolution, when crude ways to keep the lights on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week emerged, all that changed. Initially, the only segment of the population that it affected were those who were employed in factories, mines, and foundries.

factory work shift work sleep deprivation going gentle into that good nightAs textile factories, ore and mineral mines, and metal foundries remade the work day into two 11-hour shifts – generally, 7 am – 6 pm and 7 pm – 6 am – the second shift of workers were forced to ignore and work against their natural circadian rhythms to fuel the manufacturing boom, which was bolstered by a greater demand for manufactured goods throughout all strata of the population.

Although there was less concern about the workers – health, quality of life, and even death – then, there is still a significant amount of data from that period that shows most of horrific accidents (the majority of which were attributable to human error and resulted in both permanent disabilities and death) occurred during the later hours of the 2nd shift.

In the early 20th century, as manufacturing expanded into transportation, work days were again revised into three shifts – 7 am – 3 pm, 3 pm – 11 pm, and 11 pm to 7 am – with similar higher accident rates in the 2nd and 3rd shifts.

medical professionals shift work going gentle into that good nightMedical professionals in hospitals, nursing facilities, and emergency services work were the next group of people to be required to work in shifts. Additionally, of all the careers in which shift workers were employed, it was not unusual for many medical professionals to work double shifts (back-to-back shifts) to provide necessary services.

During World War II, almost all manufacturing facilities in the U.S. transitioned to 24/7 production and a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift to support the Allies’ efforts in the war. After World War II, as those factories transitioned back to civilian manufacturing, they kept 24/7 production and three shifts in place. 

As the Technological Revolution replaced the Industrial Revolution (also in two iterations, with the first one beginning after World War II, and the second one, which now affects every human on the planet, beginning in the late 1960’s) and the world became instantaneously and simultaneously intricately connected, the 24/7 workday began to affect almost everyone on the planet, white-color workers working late nights going gentle into that good nightincluding white-collar workers who saw their workdays – and nights – lengthened beginning in the late 1980’s.

As more and more people have been, by necessity, forced into living and working in a 24/7 environment, researchers have kept a close eye on how successful our efforts to work against our natural circadian rhythms have been.

The answer is we’re all pretty much failures at it and the results are poor quality sleep and sleep deprivation.

And like our ancestors in the Industrial Revolution, working late into the night or all night, whether in a medical facility, an emergency services department, a manufacturing facility, an office, or at home (because half the world’s awake when it’s time for people in the U.S. to go to bed), shows the same elevated risks of accidents and injuries (both work-related and non-work-related) when compared to working during daylight hours.

Here are a few statistics directly tied to shift work (if you’re an office jockey reading this, remember that this applies equally to you and all those late nights and overnights you’re working wherever you’re working them):

  • Work-related injuries increased to a little over 15% on the 2nd shift and almost 28% on the 3rd shift.
  • The longer the shift, the higher the risk of injuries: 13% higher on a 10-hour shift and almost 30% higher on a 12-hour shift. 
  • The more consecutive night shifts worked, the greater the risk of sustaining an injury (37% higher by the fourth consecutive night shift as opposed to 17% higher by the fourth consecutive day shift).
  • Almost 50% of the late-night (10 pm – 1 am) and early-morning (5 am – 8 am) car accidents – fatal and non-fatal – involve drivers who are driving to or from work.

Pretty scary, huh? And, yet, despite all the evidence that it’s a really bad idea, a dangerous idea, and a dumb idea, we, as a society, keep doing it. I won’t get in-depth into the reasons for that here, except to say that they are tied to greed and competitiveness, which are soul issues.

What is the biology behind the statistics above?

That we can answer. And I’ve had more jobs than not where I worked 10-12 hours on a Sunday-Thursday night schedule, where I’ve worked many late, late nights only to be back at my office first thing the next morning, and where I’ve pulled many all-nighters, so I’ve got a lot of firsthand experience to bring to the table.

The reality is that unless you’re physically exhausted – mental exhaustion actually keeps the brain in gear and is totally counterproductive – you can’t get any real quality sleep during the day. Melatonin production is off and all the hormones to keep you awake are in action, so trying to sleep well is a losing battle.

So while you may be able to get a few hours of restless sleep, you do not go through the normal sleep cycles associated with nighttime restorative sleep.

As a result, because your brain is “foggy” when you’re awake, your response times are sluggish, and, combined with the normal circadian rhythm of sleep kicking in at night – even if you’re awake – all of these are directly tied to the increased risks of accidents and injuries during work hours at night.

The later you work at night the more likely you will have an injury and/or accident because these are the normal hours when sleep is deepest and during which you’ll be fighting sleep the most.

But the long-term effects of poor sleep and sleep deprivation are just as serious with regard to neurological health.

In a series of studies on sleep published in late 2013, researchers discovered that good sleep and normal sleep (7-8 hours at night) enables the brain to clean out the toxins – including beta amyloid proteins, which are involved in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s Disease – that have accumulated in it during the day’s mental activities. This process is so energy-intensive that it can be done only during sleep, when the brain doesn’t have anything else to do.

And here’s the thing. Perpetually skimping on sleep, for a lot of us who don’t do shift work and don’t have careers that demand a lot of late, late nights and early, early mornings on a consistent basis, is a lifestyle choice.

Technically, however, all of these types of careers, except for manufacturing work, which puts food on the table and pays the bills for people who might not be able to do so otherwise, are lifestyle choices because anyone going into these careers know the demands before they choose the education and jobs that lead to them.

And that substantially increases your risk of developing a lifestyle dementia.

digital and electronic connectivity sleep deprivedWe, as a society, are very sleep-deprived. And that includes a lot of people who are not earning their living during the night.

Much of that, in my opinion, is because we are digitally and electronically connected all the time and that crowds out the time we allocate for sleep.

A few questions should help you know if this applies to you personally.

  1. Do you watch TV for several hours in bed or do you play video games before you go to sleep?
  2. Is your smart phone or tablet beside your bed so you can check email or keep up with social media? Do you check them during the night?
  3. Are you digitally and electronically connected last thing before you close your eyes at night and first then when you awaken in the morning?
  4. Do you remember what you did at night before you got digitally and electronically connected?

If the answer to the first three questions is “yes” and the answer to the last question is “no,” then you’re making a lifestyle choice, probably sacrificing sleep (it’s important to remember that all these digital and electronic things stimulate the brain, so their after-effects stay with you for quite some time after you turn them off, and that means it takes you longer to fall asleep), to stay connected all the time to a world, that quite frankly, isn’t all that important or real anyway.

And whatever is real or important about it can wait until tomorrow. Like it did when a lot of us were little kids and there was no cable tv, there was no public internet, there were no video games, there were no personal digital/electronic devices, and there were no cell phones.

The world didn’t end then, and it won’t end now if you put all these away early in the evening and give your brain a chance to relax by playing a game with your family, listening to music that soothes your soul, getting lost in a book, or simply being quiet for a little while, using that time to meditate and reflect on your day and make plans for tomorrow.

Even though since I was born I’ve always had trouble sleeping a lot and getting good sleep when I do, I purposely shut everything down early in the evening to engage in quieter and more reflective activities and I stay away from it until I’ve had some quality time in the morning to get ready to tackle it again.

One day each week – for me, it’s the weekly Sabbath – I disconnect completely for the 24 hours between sunset Friday and sunset Saturday, and I’ve begun to move away from being connected much on Sundays as well.

I rarely have my cell phone anywhere near me and even when I do, I rarely use it. I certainly don’t want it in my bedroom with me at night.

With my sleep history, I’m already behind in this game, so I make lifestyle choices to improve my odds the best I can. It may not be enough to stave off dementias, but at least I know the choices I’m making increase the odds that, if I live long enough (I always pray I don’t…we start dying the day we’re born, so it’s pretty much all downhill from that point on), they’re either mild or short and done.

For all of us who can read this today, now is the time to start making sure we’re doing everything in our power to get enough sleep and to get good sleep when we do. That’s a lifestyle choice that only you can make for you and that only I can make for me.

It may mean some hard choices. It may mean a career change. It may mean disconnecting during nighttime from technology. It may mean looking at our lives and figuring out what’s really important in the long-term, instead of buying into the pervasive idea that now is the only important time in our lives.

But in the end, from this moment on, at least in the realm of sleep, you can do something to help yourself, but you have to decide what you’re willing to trade off now and what you’re willing to live with in the future.

 

 

Is the Precipitous Rise in Dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease Over the Last Twenty to Thirty Years Linked to Lifestyle?

I have discussed lifestyle dementia, especially in the Baby Boomer generation and beyond, being a real concern for the near future.

One of the lifestyle factors that I discussed was improperly managed and uncontrolled diabetes. Diabetes can occur at any age, but it seems that more people in their 30’s and 40’s are, at the least, pre-diabetic, with many going on to be diagnosed with Type II diabetes. Type II diabetes used to be controlled with exercise and diet, but now typically includes non-insulin medication as part of the equation (Type I diabetes must be controlled with insulin).

One of those medications is the diabetes drug, Victoza (liraglutide [rDNA origin] injection). You’ve probably begun seeing a lot of commercials for this drug in the last couple of months here in the United States.  Victoza is also being tested to see if it can slow the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Personally, in addition to dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease being labeled as diabetes III, some of the new research seems to me to show a more compelling link between high blood glucose levels and the burgeoning explosion of not only dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease in the elderly population, but also in people as young as their late 30’s.

processed-foodsI suspect – this is my opinion – our more highly-processed food diets combined with being overly sedentary are major factors in this. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why over the last twenty to thirty years, we’ve seen such an explosion in these two neurological diseases.

And we’re seeing an alarming increase in dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease at younger and younger ages.

And, it is, no doubt, in large part due to a greater toxicity in our natural environment (air, water, and even big-farm-grown food, with all the pesticides and herbicides that have, with prolonged use, permeated our soil and our water supplies so that we’re eating and drinking poisons every time we put “fresh” food in our mouths).

But with this emerging link between high glucose blood sugar levels and cognitive impairment, I am coming to believe that our fast-food, “meal-in-a-box,” highly-processed foods diet combined with little-to-no regular exercise is a significant contributor as well.

Americans, especially, have some of the most atrocious eating habits in the world. Eating real meals at appropriate times during the day has all but disappeared and, in a lot of homes, eating has become whatever, whenever, and results in being the equivalent of nonstop snacking.

I’m always amazed at how much we eat out and don’t cook at home. I’m equally surprised that when we do cook at home, it’s not really cooking, but taking a box, can, or bag of something prepackaged and heating it up.

We have grown to really like the taste of processed food, fast food, and restaurant food and we don’t like the taste of home-grown food and foods made from scratch. The fast food, restaurant food, and processed food industries have made sure that we prefer their food to real food by making it high fat, high carbohydrate, and even high sugar.

McDonald’s, for instance, uses a simple sugar, dextrose, to give its french fries their unique and – I may the only person on the planet who has eschewed McDonald’s food all my life – for most people, addictive flavor .  

Check your pantry, refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets right now and see how many of the processed foods in there have a form of sugar (dextrose is a common one) added. Remember that the listing order of ingredients on food packages is from most used to least used.

big-vegetable-garden-lgWhile our grandparents or great-grandparents had gardens and fruit trees, raised chickens and/or beef cattle (or had a neighbor who did), and worked more laborious jobs to earn a living and then spent a lot of time working laboriously at home (cleaning houses, mowing lawns with a push mower and tilling, planting, harvesting, and preserving the produce they grew), we modern westerners grow very little of our own food, preferring the boxes, cans, and bags of food at the grocery store and buy hormone and antibiotic-filled chicken and beef in super WalMarts after our 10-12 hour days mainly sitting in an office staring at a computer screen.

When we do get home, if we haven’t hired a lawn maintenance service, then no matter how small the yard, we jump on a riding lawn mower video-gamesand cut the grass in a few easy sweeps. A fair number of us pay someone to clean our houses. Our other time at home is mostly spent in sedentary activities in front of computer screens, video games, and TVs.

So in many ways, although I don’t at all discount genetic factors and a very toxic planet, we westerners have adapted a diet and exercise lifestyle that very likely  could be contributing to the earlier and exploding rise in cognitive impairment and decline.

As with all diseases, there are many factors out of our control, but what we eat and whether we exercise are two factors we have complete control over. When I consider everything outside of my control working against me, then I undertake very seriously anything that is within my control.

Does that mean, if I live long enough, I won’t suffer with dementias push-lawn-mowerand/or Alzheimer’s Disease? Frankly, the odds are against me – as they are against you – with these diseases.

However, how I personally to choose to eat and exercise all my life may have a great impact on how long it takes and how bad it becomes. It may not, but I’d rather err on the side of caution.

I steadfastly believe that because Mama ate healthily all her life and exercised every day, even in little, short, slow increments throughout the day, with my guidance, almost up to her death, the worst of her symptoms were in only the last two years of her life.

So, what will you do differently, starting right now, with the things in life – and your lifestyle – that are in your control?

Adderall For Work Performance: A Lifestyle Choice That Could Contribute to Developing Dementias and/or Alzheimer’s Disease Down the Road

I’ve discussed lifestyle dementia here before, and the premise of Stephen Petrow’s “The Drugs of Work Performance Enhancement” certainly falls into a lifestyle choice that could have negative long-term effects neurologically.

I got anxious just reading Petrow’s article, which discusses the “work-productivity” effects of taking the Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder drug of choice, Adderall, to “work” better. The risks associated with taking Adderall alone should scare people away from this lifestyle choice.

But what really caught my attention is Petrow’s description of the immediate effects of taking it and then the aftereffects:

adderall and adderallXR dosages“While the medication did wonders in prompting me to write, it inexplicably interfered with my ability to speak, scrambling my thoughts before they’d come out of my mouth. (I learned never to take a dose if I were to be out in the world anytime in the next four to six hours, otherwise I either spoke too quickly or too garbled.)”

It’s important to note that speech is commonly one of the first signs of cognitive issues.

As I writer myself, I understand the chaos and the immense struggle sometimes to pull all the research and thoughts in my head together to present a cogently, well-organized, well-presented final outcome.

Some days it’s impossible (and you just accept it and go on to something else), and other days everything flows.

In reality, though, in the bigger picture, that’s kind of how life goes too. Some days work well and effortlessly and other days are just an uphill battle every step of the way.

By tampering with and altering what seems to be the normal ebb and flow of how we humans operate in every area of life, in my opinion, is tantamount to playing God without being God (a very dangerous proposition of and by itself), and is possibly increasing the risk of developing, if not dementia, debilitating cognitive problems later in life.

Adderall is an amphetamine. From Medical News Today, here is a description of the effects of amphetamines:

Amphetamines have the following short-term effects on humans:

  • Heart rate increases
  • Raised blood pressure
  • It can be an appetite suppressant (you eat less)
  • They make you feel happy (euphoria)
  • They make you feel more in control, alert, able to concentrate on things better
  • They reduce the sensation of fatigue
  • There may be a positive effect on self-esteem and self-confidence
  • The patient may become more sociable

However, after long-term use, the following may occur:

  • The feeling of power and superiority may become a problem
  • Increased anxiety
  • The individual may suffer from insomnia
  • Restlessness may increase
  • Some people can develop paranoid psychosis (chronic or high doses)
  • There may be hallucinations
  • The person may experience tremors
  • There may be undesirable weight loss
  • The individual’s behavior may become more aggressive and even violent

Many of the long-term effects are the same symptoms associated with dementia, and perhaps are indications of the neurological damage associated with dementia that can be specifically tied to the use of amphetamines.

effects-adderall-on-brainSo while, as Stephen Petrow claims, there may seem to be short-term benefits to using Adderall to enhance work performance (I don’t agree with this at all), it is a lifestyle choice that presents the real possibility of long-term negative consequences neurologically.

Most of the current elderly sufferers of dementias and/or Alzheimer’s Disease do not have a history of lifestyle choices that contributed to their neurological and cognitive impairments, although it is my opinion that the chronic stress of the exponential speed of change associated with technology along with living on a toxic planet, breathing toxic air, and eating and drinking toxic food and water are two major contributors to the increasing numbers of dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease sufferers we are seeing now.

However, it is very likely, given the increased trend toward lifestyle choices that are targeted specifically toward affecting and altering cognition, that the next wave of dementia sufferers will be largely populated with these people who have voluntarily chosen to chemically manipulate the landscapes of their minds.

It is certainly food for thought. 

Can Your Sleeping Position Impact the Chances of Developing Dementia?

sleep position may determine how well the brain detoxifies itself during sleepAccording to the World Health Organization, 47.5 million people suffer from dementia globally. 

However, there are lifestyle changes you can make that may lower your overall risk of developing dementia.

One of these could be changing your sleeping position. Continue reading