When did you last attend a presentation where the speaker was humorous, engaging and an expert in his field?
Prof Yoram Barak was invited by Alzheimers Canterbury to present a talk recently at the South Christchurch Library. I am so glad I went!
His address was titled ‘Your Mind Matters – Here’s How To Stay Sharp… Dementia Beyond Disease’ .
From the notes I jotted down, I thought you may find the following insights and recommendations most helpful. Prof Yoram Barak is an expert in the field of Alzheimers and has also published a book:
Preventing Alzheimer’s Disease – A Personal Responsibility: by Prof Yoram Barak
He explained that there are always multiple factors causing any disease – Alzheimer’s is a multifactorial disorder. Prevention plus treatment form an integrative practice.
Preventative Treatment / medicine is the practice of managing risk vs protective factors. You don’t have to know exactly how to cure something if you can prevent the development of the risk factors.
Known Risk Factors for Alzheimer’s Disease include:
· Carotid artery narrowing
· Low educational achievement
· Hyper-homocysteine (in food)
· Current smoking
· Type 2 diabetes
Protective Factors include:
· Learning to play a musical instrument
· Learning a new language
· Learning how to listen to classical music
· ARS Hypertensive drugs that cause modulation of renin-angiotensin
· Nutrition / diet / brain food . Broadly following The Mediterranean Diet with-
1. Olive Oil 4 Tablespoons/day
2. Walnuts and hazelnuts 30g on alternate days
3. 1 glass of RED wine with a meal
4. NO RED meat, soda or soft drinks
5. NO commercial baking or potatoes
· Cognitive Engagement :
1. Get Zen – meditate for ½ hour daily (refer Gary Kabat Zinn on Mindfulness)
2. Physical Exercise – daily for 30-45 minutes
3. Loneliness – volunteer, maintain and cultivate friendships
4. Purpose In Life – explore, grow.
Prof Barak explained that we don’t know why people develop dementia, and that there is no cure to date. As we do know the main risk factors, prevention becomes a personal responsibility. The neurones / grey cells in the brain are responsible for executive functioning. All activities that enhance Neurogenesis are encouraged. These include:
Get Quality Rest: It is essential to have uninterrupted sleep for 6-8 hours per night. Short term memory storage occurs during the day, and during sleep these memories are moved into long term memory and consolidated.
Take The Blues Seriously: Depression reduces cognitive functioning, and is experienced by 17-22% of people, or 1 in 5 people. During episodes of depression the hippocampus, which creates memories, atrophies and memory is therefore reduced. It can take 3 years for the Hippocampus to regenerate.
Manage Stress: Increased levels of cortisol which are produced during stress are neurotoxic. This allows increased levels of calcium through the tissue membranes. The neurones become overloaded and fire too rapidly, which kills the neurones. People exposed to prolonged trauma, such as war veterans, have 3x greater risk.
Play: Playfulness and playing enjoyable games increases brain volume in the regions that control memory and spatial thinking.
Drink Your Coffee: Polyphenals in coffee are antioxidants, and protect the hippocampus and brain cortex. Dry brain material contains 70% fat molecules. When oxygen clumps around the fat cells, oxidation occurs, which is detrimental to the tissues – coffee helps prevent this. 3-5 cups a day for women, and 2-3 cups a day for men is recommended.
Brush Up: Dental hygiene has been linked to improved memory, though the exact cause is unknown. It has been found that memory is enhanced in people who still have their natural teeth.
Monitor Your Hearing: Cognitive decline progresses 30-40% faster for people with hearing loss.
Avoid Smoking: The brain cortex thins with age, and smoking hastens the thinning.
Avoid Alcohol/Hard Spirits: Alcohol is known to kill brain cells and thereby reduce memory.
All in all, these are recommendations that all health practitioners are promoting. How many of them do you take personal responsibility for?
Food for thought – Food for our brains!
I recently visited an elderly woman in her home, in my community therapy role. So much had been happening in her world. During the weeks since my last visit she had experienced some serious health challenges, and her brother had died.
How could I be surprised that she had not managed to continue with the exercise and walking programme we had started?
She was tired, heartbroken and wracked with guilt, describing herself as “full of self-pity” because she was mourning the loss of her dear brother. This had also reminded her of the grief she experienced when her sister died a year previously.
I sat and listened with my Whole Heart.
I was not there to offer solutions, to slap a band-aid over her aching heart, to make light of her feelings. I told her I believed it was good, right and proper to feel such acute loss and to express it. How else do we recover from our deep wounds?
She told me about her family, her ancestors who had migrated to New Zealand from an Eastern European country, just before the time of the Depression. She spoke of a grandfather who worked many menial jobs to provide for his family of seven children. Her parents also worked hard to raise her and her many siblings – a labour of love which she reflected on with great gratitude. She spoke of one of her sisters who had endured many trials and tribulations only to finally triumph – and she now lives overseas. She spoke with love of her own children – their successes and challenges.
In the telling, she called all of her Ancestors into that small lounge. I could feel them standing around her. I told her that I believed that talking about our Loved ones brings them close.
I can recognise the entrenched belief that being occupied fully, being accountable for every minute spent at the expense of any form of pure relaxation, has been ingrained in our psyches. No wonder, then, that this dear soul believed she was “full of self-pity” because her thoughts kept turning to those she loved dearly who were no longer here, in physical form. Because she could not do it for herself, I offered her the gift of my time, so that she could express what her heart was longing to share.
When it was time for me to leave, she hugged me tightly and thanked me for “just listening”. I feel I was the recipient of the greater gift. I heard her heart sing!
Do you feel taking time to grieve is selfish? Do you believe it is a form of self-pity?
I welcome your comments.
You are going to win! With these words spurring me on, how could I not be a winner!
This morning I set out on my morning run, and it was hot already. Along the way, I passed and greeted a mum on her early morning walk, pushing her two small children in their stroller. The older child called out to me as I passed them, “you are going to win!”. How could I not honour that proclamation? How could I even consider feeling tired or discouraged with those beautiful words ringing in my ears?
This set me thinking about the many times I feel discouraged, as if I am wading through sludge. I have a strong work ethic, and set myself tasks and deadlines. This works for me when I have a good idea about a desired outcome, because it keeps me on track and I can measure my progress. But what happens when I am not sure about what I want to pursue or produce?
I am marooned in indecision, in not knowing, what my ‘next step’ is. Do you experience this too?
Business and personal coaching works wonders in helping one to define a pathway, helping to break down goals into manageable steps, in order to reach the defined outcome. This supposes that one already KNOWS or at least has an idea of the desired outcome.
One beautiful practice I was invited to participate in, invited us each to choose a Word to define a theme to focus on through the new year ahead, and to choose four Supporting Words to cushion or supplement the Word.
I have chosen SURRENDER.
Nothing works easily when I am pushing uphill, trying to do it all alone. I am not giving up, just practising being present in the moment, experimenting with ‘flowing’ rather than being rigid.
My supporting words are Grace, Gratitude, Courage and Insight – all qualities I will need to call on and include in my daily living.
Which brings me back to the proclamation “You are going to win!” We are all winners when we focus on what inspires us, what gives us meaning, and practice living in the present moment. And when we have others cheering us on!
“You are going to win!” – how does that make YOU feel?�
I have a heavy heart moving into this new year. Endings and more endings, because I am grieving the loss of two people dear to me.
My sister Anne has dementia and she is sliding further into the space between here and there. While she is still physically present, I miss her intellect, her sharp wit, her full presence. She is my older sister. I have known her my whole life. I never imagined that I would not be with her ‘fully’. She was the drawcard for my move to live in Christchurch.
She always looked after my younger brother and I; we looked up to her and trusted her guidance. As the eldest child, she copped the authority of our parents, and she fought hard for her independence. She is super intelligent, and my brother and I had a hard time following after her at school. She chose her own path, and with her husband travelled to places I have only ever dreamt of.
Now, I call on all my parenting and therapy skills as I navigate our relationship. She can’t remember what she ate two minutes ago, or whether she has eaten at all. She can’t dress herself. Her spatial awareness is impaired – steps are a challenge, and she doesn’t recognise familiar objects. Loud noises and busyness upset her, and her tolerance levels are reduced. Soon, she will need to be placed into full time care, which seems like a jail sentence. Excepting, there is no parole to look forwards to.
My heart is breaking. How did her Soul choose this challenge in this Lifetime?