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One more damn thing to worry about

We get a lot of cold sores in my extended family. In old family photos, there's usually one of us kids with an ugly sore on his or her lip. When we get colds, we break out with them.

In recent years, prescription creams have helped prevent the cold sores. But you have to apply the cream upon the first tingle on your lip. (The tingle is the warning sign that a cold sore is in the making.) We share the cream like it's an illicit drug because it's done such a good job preventing the family lip "curse."

Now comes a report, from HealthDay News, that older people prone to cold sores might also be at increased risk for Alzheimer's disease.

"Researchers found that of more than 1,600 older adults, those with signs of chronic infection with herpes simplex and certain other viruses and bacteria scored lower on standard tests of mental skills. But the findings, published in the March 26 issue of Neurology, do not prove the infections are to blame. 'They could just be bystanders,' said lead researcher Dr. Mira Katan, a neurologist with Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City."

The report offers one note of hope for cold-sore sufferers worried about later Alzheimer's.

"The study hinted that exercise might play a protective role. The research team found that infection 'burden' was related to mental impairment only among sedentary people — and not those who said they got some exercise."

One more excuse for me to nag my non-exercising siblings. Get moving!


Idaho Facing Alzheimers Challenge

Meet the support system for Idaho’s 26,000 Alzheimer’s patients. They are, by and large, your neighbors. Some 80 percent are women. The caregivers are themselves an aging cohort, with an average age of 59.
For family caregivers, this labor of love is physically and mentally exhausting labor. Fifty-five percent of caregivers devoted at least 40 hours a week to home care. This portrait comes from a study completed in August by the Idaho Alzheimer’s Planning Group. It’s a window to what the future could hold — for tens of thousands of Idaho patients and their loved ones. Because, even if Idaho does nothing to change the way it addresses Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, one thing will inevitably change. The caseload/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Has your family been affected by Alzheimers?

Read more here: http://voices.idahostatesman.com/2012/09/24/krichert/alzheimers_a_looming_challenge_idahos_safety_net#storylink=twt#storylink=cpy

Trend alert: “Friends with Benefits”

No, it's not the friends with benefits trend I'm taking about here. That's so 20s and 30s (as in people in that generation.)

The trend I'm talking about is the father character in the 2011 movie of the same name which I watched this weekend on cable. The father of the main character has early Alzheimer's. And though movie reviewer Roger Ebert calls it "movie Alzheimer's" which he describes as: "the form of the disease where the victim has perfectly timed lucid moments to deliver crucial speeches, and then relapses."

But I found the depiction pretty true to life. (My dad had Alzheimer's for seven years). And so this is the trend I'll be tracking: more characters in movies and plays with Alzheimer's as more playwrights and screenwriters experience it with their older family members.

Find a purpose, keep your brain

If you have a purpose in life, you might not lose your memories.

HealthDayNews released a story today about a study that looked at how having a strong purpose in life can keep your brain strong.

"Somehow, having a purpose allows people to cope with the physical signs of Alzheimer's disease," said Patricia Boyle, an associate professor at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Among those who had a lot of brain gunk — known as plaques and tangles — the ones who had greater purpose in life appeared to be less affected by a decline in their mental (or "cognitive") powers. "The rate of cognitive decline was about 30 percent slower for someone with greater purpose in life, compared to someone with less purpose," Boyle said.

(The researchers defined a purpose in life as the "tendency to find meaning from life experience, to be intentional and focused," Boyle said. "It's an indicator of well-being, that life is good and you are contributing to your life, you're making decisions.")

What older folks did you know who retained a sense of purpose late into life?

(S-R archive photo of Betty White, a 90-year-old actress filled with life)

Worried that you’re losing your mind?

I gave up worrying for Lent. No kidding. I reflected on the futile nature of worrying about things beyond my control, as most things are, and how much wasted energy I've put into worry in my 56 years.

It's been easier to give it up than I imagined, because once I begin down the worry chain, I catch myself. Today, a story reinforced the negative practice of worrying.

Turns out that anxiety (and depression) might increase a person's chance of developing Alzheimer's. According to The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, scientists in the U.K. followed 70,000 men and women.

"All were free of dementia at the start of the study period, in 1994, and their average age was 55. Study participants were giving annual health questionnaires that asked about problems like anxiety, depression, poor social functioning and loss of confidence. All are general measures of psychological health, and the higher the scores, the greater the likelihood of anxiety and depression. By the end of the study period, 10 years later, more than 10,000 of the study participants had died from various causes. According to death reports, 455 had died with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. Those men and women with the highest mental distress scores were more likely to have died from dementia than those who were psychologically healthy. The link between psychological distress and death from dementia was independent of other factors that may raise dementia risk."

Campbell Faces Alzheimers Head On

Glen Campbell wants you to know that he has Alzheimer’s disease. The pop and countrypolitan icon also wants you to know that he’s facing it head-on, and before the degenerative brain disease takes his memories, his music and eventually his life, Campbell is going to go out doing what he loves, singing and playing for fans on his Farewell Tour. Campbell and wife Kim announced his condition last year in the June issue of People magazine. In late August, the legendary singer/guitarist/actor, best known for country-flavored pop hits including “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Southern Nights” and “Wichita Lineman,” released his 61st and final studio album, “Ghost on the Canvas”/Malcolm X Abram, Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal. More here.

Question: Do you know someone who had the courage to tackle Alzheimer's head on, like Glen Campbell and Tennessee women's basketball Coach Pat Summit (early onset dementia)?

Alzheimer’s updates: Mice, poor sleep

Mice give people the creeps if they creep into your home, but lab mice might be the new best friends of older folks worried about Alzheimer's disease. In a promising study with mice, those given a decades-old cancer drug — bexarotene — saw fewer deposits of the toxins that build up in Alzheimer's brains. Read here.

And in unrelated news, sleep problems in mid-life might be linked to Alzheimer's later on. Read here.

(S-R archives photo)

Carol’s final gift: Speaking about Alzheimer’s

Ran into Carol Speltz today at the Veterans Day benefit her husband Karl organizes every year at Jack and Dan's.

Carol, who is in her early 70s, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease two years ago. The longtime educator and Christmas Bureau volunteer has been open about her diagnosis from the beginning. See story.

I haven't seen her for several months but saw her today and Carol seems to be still tracking well. And she looked great. She has given talks to seniors groups on what it's like to live with early Alzheimer's, and she asked me to spread the word that she is willing to give more of those talks. Carol is still amazing eloquent, especially about what it's like to know you are losing your memories.

If you are interested in contacting Carol let me know at rebeccan@spokesman.com

(S-R archives photo)

Alzheimers and divorce, according to Pat Robertson…

Good evening, Netizens…


Religious broadcaster and former Republican Presidential candidate Pat Robertson stunned religious communities when he stated recently on his television show “The 700 Club” that it was OK for married couples to divorce if one of them has Alzheimer's Disease.


Robertson's comments came after a viewer asked what advice he should give a friend who had been seeing another woman since his wife had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.


"I know it sounds cruel, but if he's going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but make sure she has custodial care and somebody looking after her," Robertson said.


Gee, whatever happened to the marital vow about “in sickness and health”? Do we conveniently disregard this when a lifetime partner become afflicted with Alzheimer's?


An estimated 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease – a figure expected to rise sharply as baby boomers enter their older years. And about 80 percent of Alzheimer patients who live at home are cared for by family members. The moral dilemma thus created by Alzheimer's will deepen over time.


The King James Version of the Holy Bible, in I Corinthians 13:12 speaks to me the of impact of Alzheimer's Disease thus: “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.”


I am not entirely certain that the Reverend Pat Robertson doesn't already have Alzheimer's Disease, for in his supposedly-learned treatise, he apparently has lost touch with reality. I am not sure I will miss him.


Your thoughts and realities may differ, however.