I just read an article published in The Guardian, titled "One Third of People Born in 2015 Will Develop Dementia" and I felt a shiver go through me - a mix of disbelief, dread and then a goodly portion of righteous anger. I think every single human with a beating heart who looks at the statistics, those cold, easy to ignore numbers, and applies them to the babies being born now can't help but cry out that we ALL need to do more to address this health crisis. There is a virtual tsunami of dementia coming if we don't find ways to stop it. It will swamp our healthcare system and there will be no where to escape it.
Research is, of course, necessary, and finally receiving some significant attention. But we can do more than that. Those who are children or caregivers of parents/elders with dementia know personally the devastating consequences that it can bring -- emotional, financial, in family relationships, in health of the caregiver. So, that multiplies the shivers by quite an exponential factor.
The truth is, there is almost NO one who is untouched by Alzheimer's in some way: whether it be a parent or grandparent, spouse, aunt or uncle, cousin or friend who is losing their personality and memory in excruciating pieces. Julianne Moore recently put a spotlight on the early-onset form of Alzheimer's in her award-winning performance in the film "Still Alice". And there are various groups vying for funds to support the cause in various ways. But I want to talk about what is within our power, each of us, as individuals, to defeat this disease. There's actually quite a lot that we CAN do, aside from shivering in disbelief.
Here are some of the most important, scientifically supported ways you can reduce your own risk of developing Alzheimer's disease:
I'm going to stop here, though I could go on at length. The information is here, on this website and many others. I really implore you all to take your power back and act on that which you CAN control. Type II diabetes is at epidemic proportions, and this is something we can treat and reverse.
So today, in honor of World Alzheimer's Day, won't you make a commitment to your own health and happiness by taking some steps to avoid Alzheimer's yourself? Do it for your own benefit and also for those who love and depend on you. Do it for your children to set a good, healthy example for them so they don't become one of the three people who will develop dementia. Whatever reason inspires or motivates you, just do it!
How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Of course, there is no answer to that philosophical question. But, if you ask how many caregivers are dancing the complicated, unchoreographed dance of the challenges of caregiving, the answer is, by current consensus over 65 million. That is 65 million unpaid, family caregivers in the U.S. alone. To wrap your mind around that, it means that roughly one third of Americans are caregivers! One in three people in the U.S. are performing some duties to care for an elder or disabled person!
And I read an even more astounding projection for new cases of Alzheimer's internationally for the next 40 years (source: The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease) -- there will be an almost unimaginable, 115 million new cases of Alzheimer's-type dementia by 2050. This projection doesn't just boggle the mind, it makes it run away screaming in denial!
However, on a more positive note, there was a recent article synopsis in Science Daily, titled: Link Between Brain Insulin Resistance, Neuronal Stress in Worsening Alzheimer's Disease in which the authors of the study found some promising research on insulin resistance (diabetes) in the brain, which interferes with neuronal pathways. In essence, they are postulating that Alzheimer's is basically a metabolic syndrome, even going so far as to call it Type III Diabetes -- and that just makes sense to me. The more reading I do, the more apparent (to me) it becomes that it's all interconnected. Picture a giant, multi-headed underwater monster popping above the surface in different places so it appears to be separate, yet just beneath the surface, it is one. So (this is my own opinion, not the study) the obesity crisis, diabetes (insulin resistance), metabolic syndrome, inflammation and Alzheimer's may be different faces of one disease. If the monster only has one heart and it can be targeted, it stands to reason that would make it easier to defeat. This strengthens my own resolve to continue to explore and share information & self care techniques to help the caregiver slay the dragon of disease.
If, after further detailed neurological research, it turns out that all these are indeed aspects of one multi-faceted illness -- essentially a result of being out of balance, then it actually provides even more reason to use the tools that promote optimal wellness in our lives -- and ultimately, finding our balance in mind, body & spirit may be the healing, holistic approach that will provide keys to an eventual cure. I certainly find it hopeful in that it empowers us in our own healing process. That's good news that can perhaps make the alarming statistics fade away, replaced by a healthier, brighter future with far fewer dancing the caregiver dance.
Karen is a compassionate, enthusiastic student of life, who cared for her mother for 17 years. She brings her insights, compassion, experience and desire to share knowledge and healing to this ongoing conversation with others on the caregiving path. If you are caring for a parent, spouse, friend or other loved one this site offers sanity-saving tips, open-hearted self-care ideas, and an open forum for discussion, connection and sharing resources for the journey.
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