We ARE our brains. Reduce the function of any other organ, and we may be sick, but reduce the function of the brain, and WE have changed.
PROGRESSIVE LOSS of brain function is called DEMENTIA. A sudden, temporary (if the cause can be found) is called Delirium. A variety of bad things can cause dementia, such as infections (AIDS), toxins (lead, mercury), chemicals (alcohol), traumatic (CTE from football), diet deficiencies (B12, folic acid), Endocrine deficiencies (thyroid),Psychiatric problems (depression), drugs, and Vascular problems.
The Preceding article on dementia discussed APATHY, as opposed to the somewhat similar DEPRESSION, as a warning sign for SVD, or small blood-vessel disease. SVD is the most common VASCULAR cause of Dementia.
The most common overall cause of Dementia, especially in old age, is ALZHEIMER’S disease (AD). “Senior Moments” are so common as to be a cliche. But this problem is not limited to old age. My 3-year-old Grandson came crying to me that he lost his favorite toy. “Where was it when you last saw it”?, I asked. “It was in my hand” he answered.
He had laid it somewhere, unthinkingly. You can’t remember something unless you ENCODE it. You must be paying attention to, be “mindful” of an action if you are to remember that action.. You will not remember where you put your glasses if you wander around in “default mode”, daydreaming, preoccupied. Everybody occasionally forgets a name, or item which hangs on “the end of my tongue”.
These things, especially “short term memory” do DETERIORATE AS WE GET OLDER. It is common to wonder if we, or a loved one. are getting Alzheimer’s disease, as our mental powers wane.It is often difficult to distinguish the normal forgetfulness of age from DEMENTIA, including Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) It might be a source of REASSURANCE to realize that if you are worried about getting AD YOURSELF, you almost certainly don’t have it; It takes a lot of mental functioning to contemplate that possibility.
Most often, you will be wondering about the possibility in a loved one having AD. There are 2 ideas that I ran across in my reading that might help you do a little evaluation Yourself.
BCGuidelines.ca has a 21 item questionnaire that you can score yourself. 4 points or less is considered normal, so common is forgetfulness. 5-14 points suggests mild cognitive impairment. 15 or more points suggests Dementia, of which AD is the most common type.
The test I really liked was the “Clock Test”. In this test, you draw a large circle. You then ask your loved one to draw a clock, with all the numbers and hands that will indicate 10 minutes after 11. If it is drawn correctly, you can with reasonable certainty EXCLUDE Dementia.
If incorrect, further tests are warranted. I consulted with a Neurologist regarding a friend of mine who has marked memory loss, but is very sweet, is physically capable, takes care of herself personally, doesn’t wander around, has no apparent anxiety, depression or other psychological problems.
I asked if it was reasonable to just watch without any medical intervention. The neurologist said that she should have a blood test, a metabolic panel, TSH (thyroid), LFTs, folic acid and B12 tests, and a CT to rule out NPH (normal pressure hydrocephalus). It is rare to find anything treatable, but a shame to neglect it if present.
If you do see a doctor about a Spouse or Parent with possible dementia, you might request that they discuss the possibilities with you, but ask them not to write the diagnosis of “Alzheimer’s “ in the chart. Private Assisted Living Homes CHARGE A LOT MORE for that Diagnosis– locked facilities, more personnel and the like. BDNF- brain derived neurotrophic factor- can fend off Dementia.
That is the good news. The bad news is that it takes effort and discipline to increase your level od BDNF.; I’m sure medical science is hot on the trail of a pill. But until then, our old friends, Sleep, Diet and Exercise ride to the rescue. Sleep, both N3 and REM stages, increases BDNF. Dietary polyphenols and butyrate increase BDNF. exercise of all kinds will do it.
The BDNF gene codes for the BDNF protein, which promotes the survival, expansion, and differentiation of Neuronal stem cells, and promotes neuronal PLASTICITY, neuronal response to experience. Grit your teeth and develop the HABIT of exposing your Postmodern Body to 3 of the most ICONIC and NATURAL things mandated by Evolution, Treat your Body to the Health-giving Benefits of SLEEP, DIET and EXERCISE!