The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7 NASB
As a caregiver, I am constantly seeking knowledge about dementia. I want to provide the best care for my mother as possible. Recently, I attended a lecture by a prominent neurologist who is currently involved with a company that supervises Alzheimer’s research. He listed the risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease in order of importance.
• Advancing age-When Dr. Alzheimer discovered the disease, the average life span was 48 years old and the disease was rare. Now it is the #3 killer in America behind heart disease and cancer and is the most expensive disease to treat. It is estimated the current cost of treatment is $216 billion dollars per year.
• Genetics-This is especially true for early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Otherwise, certain genes indicate an increased risk of the disease— but not certainty.
• Gender-Two-thirds of Alzheimer’s patients are women. Even taking into consideration that women live longer than men, they are still more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease. The reason is unclear.
• Education-Education reduces the likelihood of the disease. It is theorized, developing more synapsis while younger protects the brain against the amyloid protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
• Head trauma-Concussions seem to increase the chance of Alzheimer’s disease.
• Myocardial infarction-Vascular disease seems to increase the chance of Alzheimer’s disease.
• Diabetes- Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes increase the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease two to three times.
If you have some of these risk factors, the neurologist claims you can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease. Though conventional wisdom can’t answer why, he indicates the following steps seem to help:
• Mental Stimulation- Read non-fiction books. This requires learning.
• Diet- Eat a diet high in vegetables, fruit, and chicken. Avoid high-cholesterol foods like beef.
• Exercise- Thirty minutes a day five times a week.
• Socialization- Have a friend or friends.
• Stress Management-Reducing your stress will reduce you chance of acquiring the disease.
If you are reading this devotion, you are likely a caregiver, which means you have a 60% increase in death rate. Caregivers take more medicine, are hospitalized more often, and are more likely to die than non-caregivers. This is most likely caused by stress and lack of socialization.
Finally, it is important to realize normal aging is not an indication of dementia. As we age, our brain shrinks about 1% per year after age sixty. Occasional forgetfulness is normal; such as when you forgot where you left your keys. The “tip of my tongue” forgetfulness is also normal, such as when you can’t recall a person’s name. We also learn slower as we age due to neuro-plasticity decrease. It is not considered dementia until the cognitive and functional decline interferes with daily living.
Most Alzheimer’s patients appear normal until you talk to them a while. For instance, when visiting a dementia facility, it may be difficult to tell the patients from their visitors. Once, while leaving a facility, a physically able, well-dressed lady watched me walk toward the exit. She had been conversing with some ladies and appeared to be a visitor. When I pressed the code to unlock the door, she stood and expressed, “I guess I’ll be leaving, too”. Thinking she was a visitor, I was about to hold the door for her. But instead, I blocked the opening then I noticed a staff person running to stop her. Though she looked and talked normal, she was a dementia patient.
Finally, the doctor at the seminar encouraged us that there is hope for new treatments. The hope for the disease is it will become manageable then, someday, treatable. Pray for the researchers to gain knowledge and cure this disease.
© Copyright Ron Milburn 2018