Perspectives on Facing Dementia

Best practices to reduce odds of getting dementia

As a 70 year old, one of the scariest words to me is “dementia.” So, how can we deal with it better?

According to the National Institute on Aging:

“Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. These functions include memory, language skills, visual perception, problem solving, self-management, and the ability to focus and pay attention. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of living.”

This does sound pretty scary, right? BUT:While dementia is more common as people grow older (up to half of all people age 85 or older may have some form of dementia), it is not a normal part of aging. Many people live into their 90s and beyond without any signs of dementia.”

To learn more, visit these resources:

The last of these resources, highlights a recent research study that found:

“In all, nearly half of respondents to the National Poll on Healthy Aging felt they were likely to develop dementia as they aged, and nearly as many worried about this prospect. [The poll asked 1,028 adults ages 50 to 64 a range of brain health questions.] In reality, research suggests that less than 20 percent of people who have reached age 65 will go on to lose cognitive ability from Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, or other conditions.

“Despite the brain-related concerns of so many respondents, only 5 percent of the entire group, and 10 percent of those who said they had a family history of dementia, said they had talked with a health care provider about how to prevent memory problems.”

“The poll shows that a greater percentage of adults in their 50s and early 60s who say they get adequate sleep and exercise, eat healthily, and are active socially at least several times a week felt their memory was just as sharp now as it was when they were younger, compared to those who do not engage in these healthy behaviors as frequently. But those who said their health was fair or poor, or who reported that they didn’t often engage in healthy lifestyle practices, were much more likely to say that their memory had declined since their younger years. In all, 59 percent of poll respondents said their memory was slightly worse than it used to be.”

“For anyone who wants to stay as sharp as possible as they age, the evidence is clear: Focus on your diet, your exercise, your sleep, and your blood pressure. Don’t focus on worrying about what might happen, or the products you can buy that promise to help, but rather focus on what you can do now that research has proven to help.”

Perspectives on Facing Dementia
Credit: Getty Images

 

Health Benefits Available Through AARP

Great resources from AARP

AARP’s mission “is to empower people to choose how they live as they age.” In the United States, it has nearly 40 million members. And annual dues are about $15 per person. [NOTE: Our blog is a nonprofit. This is not an advertisement for AARP.]

The organization offers a number of health-related resources. Some are free. While others are offered at a discount.

Click the image to learn more about each health-related resource offered by AARP. When on the Web site, scroll down to health and wellness.

Health Benefits Available Through AARP
 

Reader’s Digest on Health

Great information and advice.

The Reader’s Digest has an excellent Web site dedicated to health-related issues: https://www.rd.com/health/. As the site notes — “Learn the latest health news along with easy ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle. From diet and weight loss tips to advice on managing and preventing diabetes, we’ll keep you looking and feeling your best.”

Here are a few recent posts:

Click the image to read more.

Reader's Digest on Health
 

Getting a Better Night’s Sleep

Sleeping myths!

We’ve written before about the importance of sleeping. [See Are YOU Sleeping Well Enough.] Now, we consider some myths about sleep.

As  Sandee LaMotte writes for CNN:

“What you believe about sleep may be nothing but a pipe dream. Many of us have notions about sleep that have little basis in fact and may even be harmful to our health, according to researchers at NYU Langone Health’s School of Medicine, which conducted a study published in the journal Sleep Health.”

“‘There’s such a link between good sleep and our waking success,” said lead study investigator Rebecca Robbins of NYU Langone Health. ‘And yet we often find ourselves debunking myths, whether it’s to news outlets, friends, family or a patient.’ Robbins and her colleagues combed through 8,000 Web sites to discover what we thought we knew about healthy sleep habits and then presented those beliefs to a hand-picked team of sleep medicine experts. They determined which were myths and then ranked them by degree of falsehood and importance to health.”

 

Click here to learn about 10 very wrong, unhealthy assumptions about sleep.

Breathing Matters — Air Quality Must Be Better

American Lung Association’s 2019 state of the air report.

No matter how hard we try to live well, and to be healthy, the quality of the air we breathe is pretty much beyond our individual control. But, we need to know more.

The American Lung Association annually publishes research on the State of the Air. These are among the air-related resources of the Association. Click the links for further information:

    • Key Findings. “More than four in 10 people live where pollution levels are too often dangerous to breathe.”
    • City Rankings. “Which cities have the highest levels of air pollution? Which are the cleanest? Check out the lists here.”
    • Health Risks. “Ozone and particle pollution are the most widespread pollutants — and among the most dangerous.”
    • For the Media. “Journalists can access press releases, experts available for interview, b-roll, the full ‘State of the Air’ report, and more.”
    • Join Our Fight. “The American Lung Association fights to clean up the air we breathe. We fight because dirty air harms our health and can threaten life itself. Would you join us in the fight for air?”
    • Shared Stories. “We all have a reason to fight for clean air. People just like you have shared some personal stories that highlight the need for healthy, safe air. Read the stories they have shared or share your own.”

Click the image below to access the full 2019 167-page report.

Breathing Matters -- Air Quality Must Be Better
 

New Hope for Those with Pancreatic Cancer

Mayo Clinic providing new options.

For those who follow this blog, you know that I am a VERY fortunate pancreatic cancer survivor. Since my cancer was diagnosed early, I was able to have a successful Whipple surgery. For most, the outlook is not as positive.

But, new research presents greater hope for the future. As Erika Edwards reports for NBC News:

“Historically, doctors have given pancreatic cancer patients chemotherapy or radiation hoping it would cause the tumor to shrink or pull away from the artery or vein it’s ensnared. Dr. Mark Truty, a surgical oncologist at Mayo Clinic, believes that’s the wrong approach. ‘You’re going to be sorely disappointed if that’s what you’re expecting’, Truty told NBC News.”

“About a third of pancreatic cancer cases are found at stage 3. Truty estimates about half of his pancreatic cancer patients diagnosed at this stage seek his care after other physicians said their tumors could not be surgically removed. His team’s approach to treating stage 3 pancreatic cancer is different from most other oncology practices”

“The Mayo Clinic approach works like this. Patients are given extended, personalized chemotherapy until levels of a tumor marker in the blood called CA 19-9 fall to a normal range. Then if a PET scan shows the tumor is destroyed, doctors move forward with radiation and surgery.”

“Among 194 pancreatic cancer treated this way at the Mayo Clinic, 89 percent lived longer than the expected 12 to 18 months. The approach has pushed average survival to five years after diagnosis, according to a study by the Mayo Clinic.

To learn more, watch the following video. Note: The beginning of the video may be a downer. But the overall video is hopeful.


 

Using Robotics to Help Those with Severe Disabilities

Advances in robotics are quite helpful.

For those with severe physical disabilities, even simple tasks may be difficult. And that can be depressing. But, companies are making great strides with robotics. These advances have the potential to increase the quality of life. Read below and then view the video.

Here is one example, as discussed by John Toon of Georgia Tech:

“An interface system with augmented reality technology could help people with profound motor impairments operate a humanoid robot to feed themselves and perform routine personal care tasks. Those tasks might include feeding and performing routine personal care tasks such as scratching an itch and applying skin lotion. The web-based interface displays a ‘robot’s eye view’ of surroundings to help users interact with the world through the machine.”

“Described in PLOS ONE, the system could help make sophisticated robots more useful to people who don’t have experience operating complex robotic systems. Study participants interacted with the robot interface using standard assistive computer access technologies—such as eye trackers and head trackers—that they already used to control their personal computers.”

“The paper reports on two studies showing how such ‘robotic body surrogates’ — which can perform tasks similar to those of humans —could improve the quality of life for users. The work could provide a foundation for developing faster and more capable assistive robots.”