Some time ago (I can’t remember when) I wrote a blog about Mindfulness. I do remember that one of the people interviewed for an article about the subject said that to be “mindful,” she tells herself what she is doing. An example of this would be, “I am putting my keys in the outside pocket of my purse, now I am putting my purse on the hall table,” etc., etc. Aside from the fact that the woman’s conversations with herself must be incredibly boring, I have found that the tip about where I am putting my keys does work. Unfortunately, I often forget to practice it and therefore lose them. I spend entirely too much time looking for my keys and my phone, so much so that it worries me.
I worry because my father spent the last 15+ years of his life afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease. I took a genetic test and discovered that I have the “Alzheimer’s gene.” Never mind that 30% of the population also has that gene; 50% of people with Alzheimer’s also carry it and it scares me. My younger sister and I often compare our ability to remember; my youngest sister is too young to start worrying in earnest (after 65, the odds of Alzheimer’s doubles every 5 years). My brother, on the other hand, says he figures he’ll get it, just like he inherited other genetic traits from our father. I can’t be so cavalier. I am used to watching my body change despite all my efforts to keep things up where they used to be. Sure, I miss my waistline but that’s nothing compared to missing my brain. I consider my brain to be my best feature and to lose its ability to function would be a disaster (though one I probably won’t know happened).
There are a few reasons for hope, as I recently learned from a Fresh Air podcast (1/5/18) featuring British Neuroscientist Joseph Jebelli, author of In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s. Here are some helpful facts that don’t get into scientific technicalities:
- Take my keys (please!)–it’s a sign of normal forgetfulness to lose one’s keys; it is a sign of something malign to forget what the damn keys are for.
2. Anything that is good for the heart is good for the brain. Eighty percent of people with Alzheimer’s also have some form of cardiovascular disease.
3 and 4. Exercise “fertilizes” the brain and sleep “cleanses” it. A good amount of both may ward off or postpone symptoms.
5. Finally, a statistic only an epidemiologist could love: if onset of the illness can be postponed by five years, it would halve the number of Alzheimer’s patients. Guess why! They’ll die of something else!
Don’t forget to enjoy the week ahead.