Although this post may not seem relevant on a blog devoted to caregiving and the myriad aspects and factors that come into play in the development of dementias and Alzheimer’s Disease, I assert that, in many ways, it is entirely appropriate.
It serves as both a cautionary tale, which Fisher herself told in many ways and many times over the course of the last 30 or so years, and as a fond goodbye to a lady, who despite her many mistakes and many flaws, has left a legacy of character traits to respect.Continue reading →
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).
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.
I 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, 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.
While 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 and 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 and/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?
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:
“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
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.
So 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.