Alzheimer’s Archives

Remembering Names

One of the biggest problems seniors often lament is remembering names. We recognize faces because that information has been registered in our subconscious minds, but remembering names is a different story. What’s your trick for recalling names that don’t come to you immediately? Going down the alphabet perhaps? David Perlmutter, MD, in The Better Brain Book, has an exercise that will help you to remember names immediately after being introduced and for an extended period after that. He says it should not take more than 10 minutes a day.

You will need a deck of cards and a phone book. Maybe your kids don’t have a phone book in their house, but surely you do.

  1. Each morning randomly select a name from the phone book; choose a card from the deck.
  2. Write down the first name selected from the phone book and the suit on the card.
  3. Say the name and the suit out loud after you write it down.
  4. Create a mental image of both the name and the suit being placed into your mental names file.
  5. After lunch try to recall both the name and the suit by creating a picture in your head of your names file and imagine yourself opening that file. Repeat after dinner. (If you were successful after dinner, but not after lunch, it counts as success).
  6. Do the above exercise daily for a week. Once you are successful for six out of the seven days, move on the to next step.
  7. Instead of writing down just the first name from the phone book, write the first and last name and pick one card from the deck.

Once you have mastered this exercise, remembering names should come to you easily. According to Perlmutter, the key to success is two-fold:

  • Say the person’s name out loud.
  • Visualize the name and the person and put it into your names file.

So the next time you meet this person, you’ll be greeting him or her by their name while the other person will be asking you for yours or have that puzzled look on their face trying to recall your name. Remembering names now comes easily to you. Let me know how this works for you.

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Chronic Stress and Aging

As your bones creak, wrinkles deepen, or even worse, diseases set in, do you find that you’re looking for ways to slow down aging? We have no control over many factors, but one study has shown that there is a link between chronic stress and aging. Long term emotional strain such as seniors taking care of their elderly parents, can take its toll on health and aging.

The first study done at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) led by Elissa Epel, Ph.D. was conducted on a group of healthy mothers caring for chronically ill children. It showed that telomeres shorten in those experiencing psychological stress – i.e., they age the cells and hasten the body’s deterioration allowing the increased risk of diseases. Telomeres are caps at the end of chromosomes (molecules that carry genes) like plastic caps at the end of shoe laces to prevent fraying. When a cell divides, telomeres get shorter. In the natural aging process, the telomeres eventually get so short that cells can no longer divide, and they die producing all of the undesirable effects of aging. Telomerase is an enzyme which helps rebuild telomeres; telomerase levels also decline with age. Over time, however, telomeres do get shorter.

A key factor, however, is perception. The greater the perceived stress, the shorter the telomeres. In the above study, those with the highest perceived stress had telomeres equivalent to someone 10 years older.

In another study led by Edward Nelson, MD of the University of California at Irvine, their research suggests that stress management can stop telomeres from shortening and promote repair as well. The Hayflick countdown was being reset. (Hayflick discovered that after 50-70 cell divisions, a chromosome can grow no shorter and the cell it is in can divide no more). This study involved telephone counseling for women who had been treated for cervical cancer. The counseling worked mentally, physically, and improved their immune system.

In still another study, Elizabeth Blackburn, Ph.D. of UCSF (who shared the Nobel prize for the discovery of the telomerase enzyme that repairs telomeres), showed that exercise has a similar effect to counseling on the telomeres of the stressed.

The bottom line is the only difference among the subjects in all of these studies is attitude. So the good news is you can do something about chronic stress and aging.

Related Resources:

Stress may increase risk for Alzheimer’s disease

Stress and Cellular Aging
Dr. Elissa Epel, UCSF

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Rosemary and Alzheimer’s Disease

Rosemary

Today there are five million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and by the year 2050, the number is projected to be 13.5 million. My blog, aboutalz.com, is devoted to the subject and one article in particular talks about the new medicines in development. As seniors, we laugh about “senior moments,” but is there anything we can do to stave off Alzheimer’s? In a little booklet called, “Folk Remedies That Really Work,” contributing writer and botanist James A. Duke, Ph.D., says that the spice rosemary is sometimes called the herb of remembrance.

Rosemary contains five compounds that seem to prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that’s deficient in patients with Alzheimer’s and important in memory and cognitive functions. Duke believes that rosemary works as well as the drug tacrine (Cognex). He says that tacrine works in only 25% of patients and it can cause liver damage.

Eating rosemary in dishes such as chicken and fish might reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s evidence that rosemary can be absorbed through the skin. So you can try putting rosemary springs into your bath, using rosemary shampoo, or rosemary lotion. Rosemary has a long history and even as far back as ancient Greece, students wore rosemary garlands while studying for exams because they believed that it improved their memory. Check out the spices in your supermarket and there may be (as there was in mine) a little sign telling you about rosemary and memory.

 

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Last year The Canadian Press reported, “The prevalence of cognitive impairment was significantly lower in women aged 65 and older who reported they were physically active as teens than in those who were inactive in their teen years,” according to a study at the Heart and Stroke Foundation Centre for Stroke Recovery at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. Principal investigator Laura Middleton said, “If we want to optimally prevent dementia, it’s important to start physical activity as early in life as possible.”

There have been a number of studies showing the benefits of exercise to stave off dementia and cognitive impairment in our middle age years and later, but this study adds the dimension of the earlier in life the better. Hence, as seniors, we need to encourage our grandchildren to remain active.

Middleton worked on the project while she was at the University of California in San Francisco, and used data from the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures. She analyzed the responses of 9,704 women in four U.S. cities: Baltimore, Minneapolis, Portland, Ore., and Monongahela Valley, Pa. The study was published in the July issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Highlights include the following:

  • Women reported on their physical activity as teens, ages 30, 50, and late life.
  • People who were active as teenagers had a greater reduction in their risk of cognitive impairment compared to any of the other ages.
  • Prevalence of cognitive impairment in the women who’d been physically active in their teen years was 8.5 per cent, compared to 16.7 per cent among those who weren’t physically active as teens.
  • For those active versus inactive at age 30, prevalence of cognitive impairment at age 65 or older was 8.9 per cent compared to 12 per cent, and at age 50, 8.5 per cent versus 13.1 per cent.
  • Women who were inactive as teenagers and became active in later life still had a lower risk of cognitive impairment than those who remained inactive.

Louis Bherer, director of clinical research at the Montreal University Geriatric Institute, said most people in the field agree that physical activity is probably the most promising strategy to protect against cognitive decline, but he added that there are limitations to this study.

When a door is always in use, the hinges will never rust. ~Chinese Proverb. Let’s get moving to increase our gray matter.

 

 

 

Happy New Year 2011!

It’s been just over two years since I started this blog and what an enlightening journey it’s been. When I started it, I was writing two times a week and then cut down to once a week when I started aboutalz.com. Now, as the new year begins, I am in the process of developing a new program, Gracefully Age Program  (GAP), where I work with seniors and baby boomers who struggle to find enough time to take care of their aging bodies, but would like to feel like they are in their 20’s again … except with better judgment.

My clients and I work together on the goals to be accomplished. Currently, we are in a three-month pilot program, but the actual program starts this spring and will run for six months. I am developing resources for the program as well as joint ventures. My program will be unique in that as a Cellular Response energy healer, I will incorporate energy exercises which I find totally intriguing.

As my blog has pointed out for the past couple of years, we seniors need to take care of our bodies if we want to have a good quality of life ahead of us. As I observe seniors around me, so many of them have let their bodies deteriorate. They have no energy. They have no sparkle in their faces. They are in pain. Diseases are rampant. I felt a program like GAP could help people even more than what I am doing in my Cellular Response practice. But only people who are committed to do anything to have optimal health will succeed in such a program. We all know people who could benefit from such a program, but they are going to have to want it for themselves. I will be the link that will help them achieve their goals.

So, I need more time to spend on the next chapter of my retirement career of helping more people and therefore, I will be adding to my blog every other Wednesday instead of weekly. I’ll be back in two weeks.

I appreciate your friendship. Make 2011 the best year ever!

Brain Rules: Part I

Brain Rules by John J. Medina, PhD, is an intriguing and interesting book published in 2008. Dr. Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant. He is the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University. He also teaches at the University of Washington School of Medicine, in it Department of Bioengineering. In Brain Rules he talks about 12 principles of surviving and thriving at work, home, and school.

  1. Exercise: Exercise boots brain power.
  2. Survival: The human brain evolved, too.
  3. Wiring: Every brain is wired differently.
  4. Attention: We don’t pay attention to boring things.
  5. Short-term Memory: Repeat to remember.
  6. Long-term memory: Remember to repeat.
  7. Sleep: Sleep well, think well.
  8. Stress: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.
  9. Sensory Integration: Stimulate more of the senses.
  10. Vision: Vision trumps all other senses.
  11. Gender: Male and female brains are different.
  12. Exploration: We are powerful and natural explorers.

Chapter 1 immediately caught my attention with exercise boosts brain power. So all of my writing about “moving” and all of the hours I spend in various forms of exercise should pay off. He answers the question: Is there one factor that predicts how well you will age? Before answering the question, he profiles two people he met on television — Jim and Frank.

Jim is in a nursing home — picture him in a nursing home, in a wheelchair, his eyes vacant, lonely, friendless staring into space. Most people would not want to spend their last years of life in this way. On another channel, the author meets Frank … Frank Lloyd Wright, that is. He was amazed at his use of language and the clarity of his mind. Wright completed the designs for the Guggenheim Museum (his last work) when he was 90 years old in 1957.

Jim or Frank — which lifestyle are you headed for? Medina says:

Put simply, if  you are a couch potato, you are more likely to age like Jim, if you make it to your 80s at all. If you have an active lifestyle, you are more likely to age like Frank Lloyd Wright and much more likely to make it to your 90s.The chief reason for the difference seemed to be that exercise imporved cardiovascular fitness, which in turn reduced the risk for diseases such as heart attacks and stroke.

He goes on to say that a lifetime of exercises can also do amazing things for cognitive performance in areas like long-term memory, reasoning, and problem-solving, but the area that’s not improved by exercise is short-term memory and certain types of reaction times. Also, over-exertion and exhaustion can also hurt cognition. So, folks, we continue with our “senior moments.”

Medina says, “Your lifetime risk for general dementia is literally cut in half if you participate in leisure-time physical activity. Aerobic exercise seems to be the key. With Alzheimer’s, the effect is even greater: Such exercise lowers your odds of getting the disease by more than 60 percent.” Now this is amazing — “… a 20-minute walk each day, and you can cut your risk of having a stroke — one of the leading causes of mental disability in the elderly — by 57 percent.”

Exercise opens up your blood vessels so it can feed your brain. In addition as the blood flows more freely, the body makes new blood vessels, which penetrate deeper into the tissues of the body.

He concludes the chapter by saying, “Our brains were built for walking — 12 miles a day! To improve your thinking skills, move.”

In order to have enough energy to exercise, we must get enough sleep. In Brain Rules: Part II, I talk about sleep.

Stress in Middle Age Could Lead to Dementia

Recently, Medical News Today reported that stress in middle age could lead to late life dementia. In this study from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, almost 1,500 women were followed for 35 years and this is the first research in Sweden to indicate a link between stress and dementia. Stress has numerous definitions, but in this study, stress was defined as a sense of irritation, tension, nervousness, anxiety, fear, or sleeping problems lasting a month or more due to work, health, family or other problems.

Stress can be good or bad and the way you respond to a situation could also be a form of stress. We are constantly making choices and we can choose to stress ourselves or we can choose not to. For example, you can choose to get angry over something like catching all the red lights on the way to work when you’re already late or you can choose to ignore it or embrace and acknowledge it and move on. Many people like to blame others for their stresses, but only you can make that choice to be angry. I don’t know about you, but I know it’s not worth being angry. Life’s too short.

One of the things we know about dementia is that keeping your immune system strong is extremely important. Current Alzheimer’s disease research is targeting the immune system. What happens when you’re stressed?

  • Blood pressure rises
  • Breathing becomes more rapid
  • Digestive system slows down
  • Heart rate (pulse) rises
  • Immune system goes down
  • Muscles become tense

Over time, diseases may develop — diabetes, depression, obesity, tooth & gum disease, cancer, ulcers, etc. It’s been estimated that 90% of visits to doctors are stress-related! There are many Web sites devoted to stress and stress management. Click here or here for some ideas.

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Can Online Games Boost Brainpower?

“Online games may not boost brainpower,” stated a Science News article in yesterday’s Washington Post. In a previous post, I shared a study that did indeed boost the brainpower of a senior group. This study, however, consisted of a younger age group of 8,600 people in the 18 to 60 age bracket. According to the Post, “…they were recruited from among viewers of a British TV science show and asked to play online brain games designed to improve their memory, reasoning and other skills for at least 10 minutes a day, three times a week.” Researchers found that those who surfed the Internet did just as well and on some sections those that did not play the brain games did better than the test group.

The lead author of the study, Adrian Owen, assistant director of the cognition and brain sciences unit at Britain’s Medical Research Council, stated that the data suggests that playing the games will not improve your IQ. Arthur Kramer, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Illinois suggests that people should be involved in physical activities because they can spark new connections between neurons and produce new brain cells.

Philip Adey, emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at King’s College in London says that games have to be challenging. He suggests learning a new language or sport if you want to really improve your brain power.

Want to try the games yourself? Click here or picture on the left.

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Video Games and Aging

Previously, I did a post on the Nintendo Wii. Now, according to  Jason Allaire, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-director of its Gains Through Gaming Lab, “There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests playing video games actually can improve older adults’ reflexes, processing speed, memory, attention skills and spatial abilities.”  Wii can even provide physical exercise.

In an article on healthday.com, reporter Dennis Thompson says, “One study found that a Wii bowling game boosted the heart rate of players at a senior center in Pensacola, Fla., by about 40 percent. The game required that the players, who were in their 60s, 70s and 80s, hold the controller like a bowling ball and swing it to hit the pins in a virtual bowling alley.”

In July of last year, dailynews.com reported that California State University, Northridge, researchers say that a Nintendo video game, Brain Age 2, is helping to reverse mental aging among the elderly. They have seen some seniors in their 80’s improve their brain age to the 20’s. Giovanni Sosa, the CSUN psychology professor who heads the program, said the game helps stimulate the brain through tasks like solving simple math problems, counting currency, drawing pictures on the Nintendo DS touch screen and unscrambling letters. “The game is designed to help work your brain and increase blood flow to the prefrontal cortex,” according to Sosa.

In order to play Brain Age 2, it does require that you also have Nintendo DS Lite. Click here for more information on the Nintendo DS Lite and click here for Brain Age 2.

Since writing the post on the Wii, we have received it as a gift from our boys and their families and it has brought us many hours of fun and challenges. Although you can play with others, the goal is to always better your own score so basically you are competing with yourself. Hence, if one person is much better than you are, it does not matter.

What are your experiences with Brain Age or Wii Fitness?


Anti-inflammatory Turmeric

turmericMany issues faced by seniors such as heart problems, arthritis, and even Alzheimer’s disease are said to be a result of inflammation. Turmeric comes from the root of the Curcuma longa plant and is a member of the ginger family. It has been used in the Ayurvedic (Indian) and Chinese medicine for ages. After processing and being ground into a powder, turmeric is better known to those of us in the west as curry. Today we are realizing more and more health benefits.

According to www.whfoods.com, (The World’s Healthiest Foods and The George Mateljan Foundation, a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests, is a new force for change to help make a healthier you and a healthier world), their food rating system shows the following nutrients in turmeric:

Turmeric, powder
2.00 tsp
4.52 grams
16.04 calories

Nutrient

Amount

DV
(%)

Nutrient
Density

World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating

manganese

0.36 mg

18.0

20.2

excellent

iron

1.88 mg

10.4

11.7

excellent

vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

0.08 mg

4.0

4.5

good

dietary fiber

0.96 g

3.8

4.3

good

potassium

114.48 mg

3.3

3.7

good

DV = Daily Value

World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating

Rule

excellent

DV>=75%

OR

Density>=7.6

AND

DV>=10%

very good

DV>=50%

OR

Density>=3.4

AND

DV>=5%

good

DV>=25%

OR

Density>=1.5

AND

DV>=2.5%

According to The World’s Healthiest Foods, the volatile oil fraction of turmeric has demonstrated significant anti-inflammatory activity in a variety of experimental models. Even more potent than its volatile oil is the yellow or orange pigment of turmeric, which is called curcumin. Curcumin is thought to be the primary pharmacological agent in turmeric. In numerous studies, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects have been shown to be comparable to the potent drugs hydrocortisone and phenylbutazone as well as over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents such as Motrin. Unlike the drugs, which are associated with significant toxic effects (ulcer formation, decreased white blood cell count, intestinal bleeding), curcumin produces no toxicity.

Ezine articles author Henri K. Junttila also writes about the benefits of turmeric in “Discover the Incredible Health Benefits of Turmeric Spice.” She says, “The best way to take advantage of the benefits of this herb is to take it in the form of multi-vitamin supplements.  Studies reveal that the substance is digested and ingested in the bloodstream better in combination with other beneficial substances. It is important however, to check which of the other complementing substances and ingredients work best with turmeric spice.”

There are nutritional supplements available. The supplements that I have taken contain turmeric as part of another supplement. For example, Immunotec has an Omega-3 product with turmeric. Vitamark International puts it in their Naturflex product and includes ginger root in their vitamin, VitaChe, specifically for heart health. My favorite, VitaOne, Vitamark’s multi-nutrition pack, contains 100 mg of turmeric. Does your favorite multi-vitamin contain turmeric?

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