Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CLL, DCC-T, Director of Dementia Care Services, Hebrew Health Care
Rates of Dementia Decreasing with Simple Steps
The news from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen last week was encouraging. Rates of Americans getting dementia are decreasing, as are rates in other “rich” countries. Why? We are controlling our risk factors.
Last year, Hebrew Health Care published the Dementia Risk Screen: eight of the 11 risk factors are modifiable. The news this week confirms you can minimize your risks!
Research conducted at Boston University has analyzed rates of dementia through several decades. The Framingham Study indicates that an individual’s risk of getting dementia is 44% lower than it was, and that the average age of onset is now 85, compared to 80 in the 1970s.
The primary reason: improved health overall. Smoking rates have dropped. Heart disease rates are improving. Numbers of strokes have declined. The study indicates the following steps will continue to improve the numbers:
o Stop smoking
o Control blood pressure
o Manage weight
o Keep cholesterol levels within normal limits
In other countries, the numbers are improving as well. However, there are new health rates which may limit the excitement. Higher obesity and diabetes rates may further increase the risks of dementia. Quoted in an article by MSN News, Dallas Anderson, Chief of Epidemiology at the US National Institutes of Health said, “It may be what we have now is a sweet-spot (as people with these health issues are still young). They’re not in the dementia range yet, but what is going to happen (with them) in the pipeline?”
Take the Dementia Risk Screen at www.agingcareacademy.org. Listen to the podcasts to learn what you can do to minimize your risks starting today.
New Ways to Diagnose AD Being Developed
Three other breakthroughs were announced this week: a smell test, a blood test and an eye test.
Blood test – Kings College in London reported research conducted over the past decade to develop a test for diagnosis of AD. The studies indicate 87% accuracy. The test detects 10 proteins in the blood, and indicates onset of AD in the following 12 months.
“Why would I want to know?” responded one of my colleagues. “I think most people would NOT want to know,” said a caregiver when we discussed it at a support group meeting.
Most of these tests are being developed FOR research. Many researchers are concerned that drug targets fail because by the time the experimental agents are tried, the disease has taken too much of the brain to be effective.
The target for the blood test is people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), the vast majority of who develop Alzheimer’s in 5 years following diagnosis.
Although this is exciting, there is no blood test for dementia ‘around the corner’, according to published reports. These are small studies. And with more than 10% of people being misdiagnosed, more work, on larger scale studies, is needed.
The other two tests – smell test and eye test – are correlation studies. At the AAIC press briefing, there were lots of discussions about these two studies. The smell test is about people who have MCI, they experience changes in their ability to smell, and that correlates with the transition to Alzheimer’s. For the eye test, proteins detected correlate with amyloid proteins in the brain. However, there are still a significant number of researchers and experts who question the amyloid THEORY as the protein responsible for plaques and tangles. These tests are based on theories of what causes Alzheimer’s. Also it is important to note that just because you have a change in your sense of smell does NOT mean you have AD. Many conditions affect taste and smell.
New Protein Identified in Alzheimer’s Plaque
There were hundreds of studies shared at AAIC. Another interesting one hails from Mayo Clinic in MN. Researchers have identified a new protein which may be another piece of the “plaque” puzzle. The research compared people who died with Alzheimer’s – some who had symptoms, and some had not. Of the 372 people, more than 200 had this new protein, in addition to amyloid protein. One theory is that perhaps the protein is a byproduct of the disease. The protein has been identified as critical in ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease and other neurological conditions. More tests will be conducted.
There is still no known CAUSE of Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, there is still no known cure. However, the research reported at the AAIC last week is encouraging for the ongoing efforts to find the answers which plague us.
Jiuseppe M Russo RD, CD-N, Clinical Dietitian Manager, Hebrew Health Care
Getting outdoors to enjoy the beautiful weather is one of the perks of this time of year. If picnics are part of your plans, take caution with time and temperature to make sure nothing spoils your fun. Eating outdoors can be a great way to get some fresh air during your lunch break. Unfortunately, many of us tend to forget some of the basics of food safety when it comes to eating outdoors. To make sure that food borne illness does not spoil your outdoor eating, follow these simple rules.
Wash Your Hands-This effective step is not always so easy when you are outside. Consider washing your hands right before you head out or bring some hand wipes with you.
Maintain Food Temperature-Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. The bacteria that can make you sick enjoy warm weather as much as you do. To keep your food safe from unwanted bacteria, keep food below 40F or above 140F. Consider ice packs or hot food containers if you don’t plan to eat your food right away. If you can’t do this, remember that anything left out for more than two hours, or one hour if it is really hot out, should be thrown away.
Handle Leftovers Carefully-If you bring your lunch outside and have some leftover, put it in the refrigerator as soon as you get back. If you can’t get it into a refrigerator, toss it into a cooler with ice. As good as it might have been, the risk is not worth keeping it around.
Jiuseppe M Russo RD, CD-N, Clinical Dietitian Manager, Hebrew Health Care
Warm Weather vs. Cold Weather
Myth: When engaging in outdoor recreation, you only need to worry about drinking enough water only during warm weather sports and activities.
Fact: Outdoor winter activities require at least as much water as outdoor activities during the rest of the year. Your body loses fluids when inhaling cold winter air, particularly during days when humidity is low and air is crisp and dry.
What about Fruit Juice?
Myth: Drinking fruit juice is a good way to meet the majority of your body’s fluid requirements as long as it is 100% juice.
Fact: While it’s true that fruit juice has high water content, the calories can add up quickly making it poor choice as a hydrating beverage. Try diluting a few ounces of your favorite fruit juice plenty of water or making a spritzer by adding a few ounces of fruit juice or nectar to a tall glass of seltzer.
Bottled Water Safety
Myth: Bottled water is safer than tap water.
Fact: Most bottled waters are safe, but it depends on where the water comes from, how it’s treated and whether or not it is tainted. In fact, an estimated 25% or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle – sometimes treated, sometimes not. A recent survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that out of 103 brands of water tested, one-third contained significant contamination. If you’re buying bottled water, choose a major brand from a store that sells a lot of water. Once you drink from a bottle, refrigerate it, and finish it within one or two days.
Reusing Water Bottles
Myth: There’s nothing wrong with rinsing out and reusing plastic water bottles.
Fact: Reusing and refilling empty water bottles seems like a responsible practice since it helps reduce wasteful discarding of plastic. However, according to the International Bottled Water Association, these bottles, made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), are intended for onetime use. Over time, the plastic loses its integrity and develop cracks of leaks. In addition, they are difficult to wash and dry due to a narrow neck. If not properly sanitized, they could harbor bacteria. It’s true that water is not the most likely environment for bacteria to grow in, but since water bottles come in contact with the mouth, particles of food mixed with saliva could flow back into the bottle where-under the right conditions, such as warm temperatures or even room temperature-bacteria could thrive. If you want to be environmentally conscious, purchase a reusable water bottle sold in bike shop or outdoors/sporting goods stores.
Compiled by Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CLL, Director of Dementia Care Services, Hebrew Health Care
A Welsh research team followed more than 2,200 men ages 45 and 59 for 35 years. They had two key objectives: 1) to see if there really is a relationship between healthy lifestyle, chronic disease and cognitive decline; and 2) to see how much impact changes in health activities (adopting new healthy habits) had on wellness over time. The researchers from Cardiff University were tracking health habits and monitoring for chronic conditions including dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke and have authored more than 400 articles in various publications since the end of last year.
So what are the healthiest habits for the men who participated in the study? They probably won’t surprise you.
♥ Exercise regularly.
♥ Don’t smoke.
♥ Maintain a low body weight.
♥ Eat a healthy diet.
♥ Keep alcohol intake low.
While the study found that few people live a fully healthy lifestyle (only 1%), they did see note some interesting findings:
How healthy do you need to be? When should you start?
The study shows that people who consistently followed 4 of the 5 habits reduced their risk of dementia by SIXTY PERCENT (60%). That is very significant. They also reduced their other chronic diseases by 70% (diabetes, heart disease, etc.). Also, start now with JUST ONE NEW HABIT. Researchers found that if the men had been urged to follow just one new healthy habit at the start of the study, the rates of dementia and other diseases would have continued to drop significantly.
What about women?
Although the study participants in this research were all men, there is no reason to think that the results would not be equally impressive for women. We have always said that what is good for the heart is good for the head. There are many research studies on smaller scales which yielded similar findings. And the results of the Welch study are often extrapolated to “people,” not just men.
By Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CLL, Director of Dementia Care Services, Hebrew Health Care
1. Keep your car doors locked. A confused person climbing into your car on a hot/humid day presents more risk than wandering in a snowstorm.
2. Avoid too much sun. People with dementia may not be able to express pain or discomfort. Limit how much time they spend outside in the heat or sitting in direct sun. Also remember sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, and light clothing.
3. Ensure adequate hydration. Older adults often limit fluids to avoid multiple trips to the bathroom at night. Push fluids especially in the summer. Provide non-alcoholic beer and other drinks.
4. Keep an eye on pets. Anticipate that people with progressive dementia will have a harder time keeping pets healthy. Remember our furry friends need cool air and water too.
5. Watch out for slippery floors. As kids come in from the pool, wet suits may create a slip-hazard; falls are catastrophic for people with dementia who may not relearn to walk after a fracture.
6. Time for driving retirement? Many people are reluctant to drive in winter weather. With the summer, they may be returning (unsafely) to the road. Knowing how to operate a vehicle does NOT equate safe driving. Call us at 860-920-1810 for information on how to have these difficult conversations.
7. Think of gun safety. As the long winter leaves us, more people are going outside and enjoying their favorite hobbies. Guns and Alzheimer’s are a dangerous combination – 40% of Veterans with mild dementia have loaded guns in their homes according to the VA. Disable guns, remove them or at least secure the ammo.
8. Medication mix-ups. If you utilize professional help, summer vacations often mean replacement staff. Avoid problems with medications, and other care needs, by keeping clear, easily read, and up-to-date lists of medications, allergies, and routines.
9. Getting lost. We all enjoy a nice walk on a cool summer night. Ensure safety by investigating alert programs or GPS devices – call us at 860-920-1810 for our recommendations. If going on outings or to a game, have a buddy so no one walks around alone.
10. Avoid overstimulation. This time of year is when we all love family picnics, parties, BBQs or just going to a park. Too much noise, too many people, too much to think about can increase restlessness and anxiety in people with dementia. Visit www.agingcareacademy.org for caregiver tips and suggestions.
I’m going through my old files today – some simple spring cleaning is good for the soul. I think it reduces stress for me. Stress is a natural (and necessary) part of life, and we all have positive and negative ways of coping with stress. When I’m really stressed though it seems that I can think of many more negative stress relief strategies than positive. In my spring cleaning I’ve found a list of 24 positive stress-busting strategies. Happy day!
There are four basic categories and I thought I’d share them with our readers, especially for those stressed with age-related changes or care-partner stress.
Physical and Lifestyle Strategies – these are positive habits that are physical in nature and they have some of the most profound impacts on stress. From exercise to diet, changing your physical habits significantly busts stress.
Emotional Strategies – ensuring laughter in your day, and nurturing your soul through music you love are just two simple things to uplift the emotions and reduce stress.
Philosophical/Spiritual Strategies – the power of prayer may be obvious, but also just having a more philosophical view of the world in which we live can reduce stress. These strategies probably take the most reflection and practice to make habit, but may also have the most profound impact on keeping stress at bay.
Develop a list of your own positive stress-relief strategies and try to strike a balance with the kinds of relief you utilize. This is important to ensure positive aging – for instance, if your greatest or only stress relief happens through running, how will you cope with stress if you lose the ability to run/walk? A variety of strategies is best.
FOR A COMPLETE LIST OF THE 24 POSITIVE COPING STRATEGIES, VISIT http://www.agingcareacademy.org today!