Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.- Proverbs 4:23
Friday. FRiday!! FRIday!!! FRIDay!!!! FRIDAy!!!!! FRIDAY!!!!! Tis here… Welcome back to our little cornbread table. 🙂 At Digital Cornbread, we try to hit all aspects, nooks, and crannies of dementia topics from every angle we can. Why? Because there are no cures, no approved, life-extending treatments, and millions are suffering. Today I am going to discuss something (again) that is as awesome as it is unsatisfying: Prevention.
(The sound of 9,000 mouse clicks escaping the user from the discussion to return to cat memes and Amazon shopping)
Anyone left? Whew…you two are here and I am…that makes enough to continue.
Can I get real with you a little? I made you mad with the pot column Tuesday, I might as well offer some tough love now. 🙂
Lisa Genova, writer of NYT Best seller Still Alice, discussed extensively in her newer book Remember, that there is a “tipping point” in one’s journey with dementia. There is a point when the pathology (the nuts and bots of the disease’s weapons of harm) hits a point of no return and we will get the disease. (Think Star Wars…once the Death Star was built, things got worse quickly) It has long been held and recently proven over and over, that the pathology of dementia started LONG before the first symptom. Beta Amyloid plaques and Tau tangles start appearing. in small but increasing measures, in the future victim’s brain decades before the first memory gaffe or bad decision or…well, you enter the warning sign. (Here are some guesses as to how much earlier: Link Link Link Link Link…20-34 years cited…or more?!?! Wow!)
Further study shows that there are more and more and more biomarkers (things that can be looked at that show the disease is coming or is already present) and tests being developed and perfected every day that will show us the pre-disease progression of dementia in our bodies. Bluntly…if you could get, say, a blood test/painless lumbar puncture/PETscan/MRI or the like and see that you are showing REVERSABLE signs that, at the current pace, you WILL get dementia within X number of years, would it matter to you? Would you change your lifestyle to fight the progression. AT LEAST 1/3 of cases could be prevented with proven prevention techniques. What if the number proves to be higher? There are links between many causes of dementia that can be prevented. Very few…less than 5% of cases are so hereditary that the person is absolutely cursed to get this disease. The rest have some hope.
A few thoughts here on chinks in the tipping point armor that will eventually lead to this:
There is a heart/head connection. “What is good for the heart is good for the brain”….and likewise, is something the Alzheimer’s Association rightly discusses all the time.. High blood pressure. Too low good cholesterol. Too high bad cholesterol. Anxiety. Sleeplessness. Depression. ALL bad for the heart… and the brain. More on that to follow. Bottom line, though…we have to take care of our heart.
Emerging science is digging deeper into the gut biome as another piece of the puzzle in causing the disease. It is still developing, but it seems as though inflammation and problems in stomach chemistry and, specifically, in the single-cell organisms present there, can cause more and more issues with Beta Amyloid/Tau. Other disease in the brain and elsewhere have been shown to have this same issue, so why not? Diverticulitis is common in patients with the disease. My mom had this stomach/digestion issue. Maybe that is a biome issue along the same lines? Here are some links for further study: Link Link Link Link Link Link Link There may be probiotic medicine/food help coming for some of these things… I watched a great University of Kansas presentation on this this week…more to follow in future episodes. That school may not know winning college basketball tournament games, but they know dementia!
Stress and anxiety. Anyone have an issue there? Ahhh…almost everyone. Yup…not good if you are fighting off dementia. We simply have to reduce these factors.
Falls, head injury, and surgery- This is a little more informal, but falls and surgeries tend to correlate somehow with the development, or at least the exacerbation, of the disease. Who hasn’t known someone who was “fine until he/she fell” or “got dementia from the surgery/anesthesiologist”? Falls and some surgeries CAN be prevented. Head injuries in some cases can also be prevented. (Wear a helmet while you ride your bike, wear a boxer’s mask if you must box, etc….)
Lose weight. Good for the heart, the stomach, and every other part of the body! Hit your ideal weight and stay there, Mark….oh, and you too. Wanna fight? Watch the weight.
Exercise. Good for every body system too. Wanna fight dementia? Exercise regularly under the guidance of your doc.
More and more and more and more… Every good thing we do fights off the tipping point and every bad thing we do pushes closer.
Mom, at diagnosis nearly a dozen years ago, was living pretty well on many of these items. Her anxiety was too high, but she ate well, she had stopped smoking a handful of years before, she exercised a lot, she did brain games and exercised her brain a bunch of ways through music and art, and she kept her blood pressure down. Damage done earlier in life with surgeries, blood chemistry/stomach chemistry issues, smoking, and the like pushed her toward the tipping point….but it had slowed down. Note here: this pushing toward the tipping point seems, at least in her case, to be a one way push. In other words, every step to the point is one that cannot be walked back. Every arrow weakens the armor such that eventually the arrow gets through if it hits the right spot…(meme above is a bad example, but it is funny).
So, if we know all of these things…and we hear about it all the time, why don’t we care enough to change? I mean, we all know that smoking causes cancer, that unprotected sex can lead to HIV infection/other diseases, that overdrinking destroys the liver, and that many, many things we do are counter to living a long, healthy life. If we know these things, why don’t we care? I would like to say it is because we are all immature Christians who are just focused on eternity and not paying attention, but I think God wants us to take care of ourselves for His glory.
Here are some possible reasons we don’t care:
- We just don’t care or we like to do stuff bad for us more than we dislike dementia.
- Maybe we aren’t exposed to the disease enough? This disease stinks, folks…so we hide it. We don’t visit the nursing home (pre-Covid) and we stop calling our seniors?
- We think we are invincible or that we are going to die anyway so why not live for today? Logical, to an extent, but how much would you pay for some extra time pre-dementia? I would give every dime I own for another year with mom pre-disease. So much I never said, never apologized for, never asked…
- Maybe we deny this stuff causes our demise? There are millions who believe in a flat Earth and that Epstein killed himself, so why not?
- Maybe we have a death wish? If I am being honest, I will acknowledge that depression contributed to my multiple times being over 300 pounds. It felt nicer to eat that GutBurger than it did to live longer.
- We will do it later. Chink. Chink. Chink. Chink. More arrows off the armor. More tiptoes toward the tipping point. Later never comes! (Note here for those yet to become a Christian…this is a verse worth your consideration too. Doubts in this area? Here is a video that will help you)
- Some other reason? Share in the comments.
So how unsatisfying can I be as I conclude? Allow me to summarize: We can prevent many, many cases of dementia and other diseases… Mom could have potentially prevented it or delayed her onset. My uncle…the same. My grandma, the same. So why didn’t we?
Note: I am not blaming anyone for their disease. Please hear my heart. It is above our pay grade to absolutely prevent most anything bad… or good. I sure am not blaming folks whose genes dictate high odds of getting dementia. I am just trying to stoke the fires of prevention in you, and in me, to fight this beast off. See, I want to fix this disease! I want a cure. I want a pill that makes it freaking go away. Bad. I am Runnin’ Til I’m Purple, not because I particularly like to run, but because we need a cure….and bad. Just give me a pill option that will cure it…and today would be great. But that day is still down the road. Prevention is our plan. It is my plan (now, insomuch as it isn’t too late) and it should be my kid’s plan. It should be your plan too…
So, :The Completely Unsatisfying, But Right Answer For Many: prevention!
Thank you for your friendship and your encouragement. We will beat this thing, one way or another, yet.
Update: I had a nice visit with mom Thursday. She was tired and wheezy. The wheezing is caused by her aspirating food and beverage because of her body’s “forgetting” how to eat/swallow. It will eventually cause, most likely, pneumonia and will take her from us….and it is hard. Yet, as hard as it is, she is still happy and cracks an occasional smirk/grin. She doesn’t seem to be in pain this week…her arms aren’t clinched as they had been. I look forward to a less restrictive nursing home so we can hang out more. Coming soon, I hope…
Runnin’ Til I’m Purple update- Little over $2,000 raised for these two great non-profits. If you could kick in a coin or two, I really appreciate it. 🙂 My goal is still $5280 by the June 19th running date. My long run this week looks in danger, weather-wise. I may have to do it after church Sunday.
WW update- I haven’t updated you on my weight lately. 1/1/2020 I was around 360 pounds. I list about 15 before, then started Weight Watchers and have lose another 100.4 with this plan. If you want to join, you can get a free month with my referral link here. Once it goes through and you make your first class, I get a free month too…and I will promptly donate said benefit into our Runnin’ Til I’m Purple collection jar. 🙂 Prevention is important and WW is helping me slow down the race to the tipping point. I just hope I haven’t tipped too far already…
Last note: We had a great visit with US Representative Billy Long’s aide is week. He is an amazing man and would be a great legislator himself. I wish I could have also visited with Rep. Long, but his aide will get him our thoughts, I have very little doubt.
Thank you all! Have a great, life-giving weekend!