One of the joys of the holiday season is when we reconnect with our families, young and old. Of course, it’s great fun when we get to hear of our Grandparent’s exciting trip they took to Ireland last year. But for some families the reunions are more bittersweet, as we notice the progressive changes that a year has taken on our loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Last weekend I saw an impactful edition of 60 Minutes on TV. Follow this link to view it yourself. In summary, it documents the struggles of a unique Columbian family that has a rare and disastrous genetic mutation, resulting in roughly 50% of their lineage to fall prey to very early onset Alzheimer’s followed by an approximate 10 year decline into oblivion. The episode is extraordinary to watch (grab your Kleenex box), and a clinical trial has begun that may offer incredible insights and even a possible cure into this dismaying disease. Please note that this type of Alzheimer’s is very rare. My prayers go out to this brave family.
Don’t despair, I have some good news for you here should you have concern about a bit too much forgetfulness lately. From an entirely different perspective, an encouraging article I read in the Wall Street Journal this week wants us to know that although Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, the chances of actually having a dementia condition like Alzheimer’s at a relatively early age – and early is defined as between 50 and 65 – is actually more remote than you might have imagined.
If you’ve been concerned, it’s far more likely that you are simply experiencing very normal age-associated declines in cognitive skills that can be greatly exacerbated by other lifestyle factors like exhaustion due to sleep issues, overwork, drug side effects, substance abuse, depression or adult attention deficit disorder. The general term for this situation is “brain fog”. Yes.
STRESS, along with a buffet of the choices we are casually offered in our society to deal with demanding circumstances to the best of our ability can magnify memory and cognition issues – and fog us up like we live across the bay from San Francisco. Uncover the stress that is intensifying the symptoms and clarity can again be yours.
Of course, if you have watched a family member decline into senility, you may be more sensitive to changes you note in your own life. And worrying that you are not at the top of your game can be absolutely debilitating. A well-intentioned physician may prescribe you an aid that doesn’t really benefit your particular situation. Or a seemingly relaxing habit like a drink or medication before bed may rob you of much needed deep sleep and clarity in the long run.
I’m not saying to ignore memory and cognition lapses. I am saying to love yourself, take a deep breath and attempt to evaluate the stress level you’re expecting yourself to function at. Would you even suggest that level of stress to your 30 year old niece? Probably not.
And if you are seriously concerned that your thoughts seem to be slipping, seek out an expert such as a geriatric psychiatrist or a neurologist who can review your symptoms and run appropriate tests.
In my experience, dietary choices and toxicity are always involved in any type of cognitive and mental issues. Caring for ourselves by making healthy meal choices, drinking plenty of water, exercise – all these are guaranteed to clear away a bit of that fog. And a great research study I read the other day (one of many) clearly demonstrates that probiotics, those good bacteria in your gut, may help boost memory and learning for Alzheimer’s patients. If they can do that for someone that already has symptoms, imagine how helpful they may be for the rest of us!
My greatest wishes are for you to enjoy a clear and joy-filled holiday – and please remember – cut the stress! You’ll free your mind!