Tag Archive | aging

Global Dementia Report for 2015 Released

Global Impact of Dementia 2015

The infographic above was included in the World Alzheimer Report 2015: The Global Impact of Dementia, released on August 24, 2015.

Dementias of all kinds are on the rise, despite pernicious and false claims that the rate of dementia diagnoses is stabilizing. 

With an increasingly toxic planet – air, water, food, soil – our bodies and our brains are suffering irreparable damage over time, and dementias are the neurological manifestation of that damage.

Additionally, we have developed lifestyles – processed and fast foods with chemicals, too much salt, and too much sugar, neurologically-altering drugs (prescription and illegal) that have become the rule, not the exception, and increased alcohol consumption and abuse – that are harmful to our bodies and our brains, resulting in the dramatic rise in both physiological diseases and neurological degeneration.

With technology addiction and sleep disorders/deprivation layered on top of these, we, as a society, are choosing to further increase the odds of our widespread development of dementias.

And to top it off, the general population is getting older – Baby Boomers are about to bust all the rest of us in their old age – and medicine continues its march toward quantity of life (age) instead of quality of life (health).

With all of these factors in play, the reality is that most of us don’t stand a chance of not developing some sort of neurological impairment. It may not be full-blown dementia, but most of us are at high risk.

In some of these things – lifestyle, technology addiction, sleep habits, quality of life versus quantity of life – we have complete control. Our previous habits may have already done irreparable damage, but we have the choice today to say “Enough already!” and change.

But will we?

The pessimist/pragmatist/realist in me says most of us won’t.

I watch myself making every change I can and I watch most of the world around me continuing – even increasing speed and intensity – headlong into the very practices and behaviors we have complete control over that will lead to cognitive impairment.

I have sounded the warning here many times. But I realize that I’m just talking to myself. Nobody else cares, it seems.

At times, I wonder why I care if nobody else does. Talking to yourself is a waste of time, so I often wonder if I’m just wasting my time with this blog. Maybe I am.

But I keep doing the blog because if it helps just one other person on the planet, then that’s one person out of 7.5 billion people that I’ve been able to serve and if I stop, then I stop serving. My conscience and who I am won’t let me do that.

And even if nobody wants to hear it now, maybe in a few years, when I’m dead and gone, and their families are watching them go through the journey of dementias, their families will find this blog and it will help them.

If I leave a legacy, this might be it. I don’t have high hopes for any legacy. People are so hedonistic and narcissistic now that they don’t pay any attention to anything serious or important. I can only imagine that will get worse in the future too.

But even if there’s no use for this information, at least I know I’m doing the best I can to pay what I’ve learned forward and try to help others. The choice of whether they want to learn or ignore is theirs, not mine.

C’est la vie.

“Being Mortal” by Dr. Atul Gawande: Book Review and Recommendation

Being Mortal Book ReviewAfter watching PBS’s Frontline program “Being Mortal” with Dr. Atul Gawande, I knew I wanted to read this book with the same name.

It didn’t disappoint. Having intimately walked through aging and the end of life with both of my parents up close and personally, I could nod my head at much of what Dr. Gawande said about life and medicine as it exists today and how it should be instead. Surprisingly, I found some comfort in knowing that my parents and I – although many times it seemed like a David and Goliath battle – together took the right and the best approach toward both.

Everybody should read this book. It highlights one of my mantras about living: quantity doesn’t equal quality and in the end, if there’s no quality, there’s no life.

We Americans especially are on this eternal quest to cheat aging (and spend who knows how much money on one gimmick after another to try to sidestep it or avoid it altogether), so we ignore the inevitable fact that this body is temporary and it starts failing us gradually and slowly from the day we are born.

And because we ignore the aging process, we do not plan and are not prepared – nor, for the most part, is society – for the changes that need to be made, while preserving independence, vitality, and purpose, when we reach the point of physical breakdown where we need help.

We Americans also have been so removed from the process of dying that we literally treat death as an abnormality instead of the expected and intended end of all humans.

Medicine has accommodated this and public policy and insurance companies have thrown their support behind this quest for “a little more time.” What buying a little more time has cost us is a lot of money, more harm than good (the cure is often far worse than the disease), and the loss of quality of life.

Dr. Gawande refocuses aging and end of life through a difference lens. He poses the questions most people, including medical professionals, don’t want to ask, but should ask. And we should answer.

Some of us will die suddenly – the reality is that no death is unexpected, because that’s the end game for all of us. Even if we die suddenly though, there are many things we need to have in place to make our deaths as easy on whoever will be taking care of our affairs afterwards as possible.

If we die suddenly then we may be too young to have to plan for aging well. But many of us will live long enough to come face to face with the aging process. Without a plan, all bets are off.

If we want control over how our lives go when we age to the point where we need help and we want control over how our final years, months, weeks, days on this earth unfold in terms of what’s most important to us (family, friends, faith, being at home, etc.), then today is the day to start thinking about it, plan for it, and make our decisions known to everyone who needs to know.