Thursday, July 17, 2014

5 things you didn't know about Alzheimer's

By Felix Gussone, Special to CNN
 Thu July 17, 2014
(CNN) -- Approximately 44 million people live with dementia worldwide, according to the Alzheimer's Association. By 2050, that number is expected to more than triple to 115 million.
In the fight against these fast-growing numbers, experts from all over the world discussed the latest research at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week.
Here are five things we learned about Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia:
Hypertension in old age may save your brain
High blood pressure is usually called the "silent killer." However, a new study from the University of California now suggests that if you're over 90, hypertension can save the life of your brain cells.
Hypertension may protect against dementia in people over age 90, the study authors say.
The researchers followed 625 participants who developed high blood pressure in their 90s for up to 10 years and found that their risk for dementia was 55% lower than people without a history of hypertension.
Nevertheless, the study doesn't promote hypertension in the elderly, given that high blood pressure is related to other bad outcomes.
"I don't think it says if I find somebody who's doing well at age 90, whose blood pressure is 120/80, we should feed them salt to bump their blood pressure up," says William Klunk, vice chair of the Alzheimer's Association Medical and Scientific Advisory Council.
The study simply shows that when it comes to normal levels of blood pressure, it might not be a one-size-fits-all with respect to age, he says.
Better late than never
Seniors can lower their risk for late-life cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease with a number of lifestyle changes, new research suggests.
A two-year clinical trial from Karolinska Institutet and the Finnish Institute for Health included 1,260 participants aged 60 to 77. One part of the group received a "lifestyle-package," including nutritional guidance, physical exercise, management of heart health risk factors, cognitive training and social activities. The control group received standard health advice.
After two years, the lifestyle-intervention group did much better in tests of memory and thinking.
We know from past studies that implementing those lifestyle factors in midlife can hedge against Alzheimer's disease later on, says Ralph Nixon, chairman of the Alzheimer's Association Medical and Scientific Advisory Council. "The good news from this particular study is that these kind of changes can be implemented in your 60s and 70s."
Playing games makes your brain bigger
Middle-aged people who were avid game-players (think crosswords, checkers, cards) tended to have bigger brains than people who did not play games, according to a recent study that looked at brain scans.
"It's like looking at someone's muscle mass," said Dr. Laurel Coleman of the Maine Medical Center Geriatric Assessment Center. "It's bad when it's smaller, good when it's bigger."
Researchers looked specifically at certain parts of participants' brains. The volume among game-players was greater in areas that tend to be damaged by Alzheimer's disease, suggesting the potential for delaying -- maybe even avoiding -- the disease. People who kept their brains pumped scored higher on tests of their thinking ability.
Coleman suggests mixing it up: Try potentially stimulating activities like learning a new language or switching from reading nonfiction to fiction -- anything that poses a cognitive challenge.
Exercise benefits the mind too
Exercise seems to slow the descent toward dementia as well.
Two sets of data from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging suggest that exercise may positively influence how mild cognitive impairment (a precursor to dementia) and dementia develop.
In one group of patients with mild cognitive impairment, exercising seemed to protect against developing dementia. Data on a different group of healthy patients who exercised -- either lightly or vigorously -- showed they were less likely to be diagnosed with cognitive impairment.
"We would never say that these things totally prevent Alzheimer's, that they will cure you," said Coleman, a geriatrician. "But they're going to help your brain."
smell test may detect Alzheimer's
In the future, a test of your sense of smell may help doctors predict your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
In two separate studies, scientists found that people who were unable to identify certain odors were more likely to experience cognitive impairment. The researchers believe that brain cells crucial to a person's sense of smell are killed in the early stages of dementia.
Researchers say this information could help doctors create a smell test to detect Alzheimer's earlier. Early detection means early intervention and treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Doctors today can only diagnose Alzheimer's disease once it has caused significant brain damage.
"In the face of the growing worldwide Alzheimer's disease epidemic, there is a pressing need for simple, less invasive diagnostic tests that will identify the risk of Alzheimer's much earlier in the disease process," Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association, said in a statement.

Monday, July 14, 2014

More Than 1....

(My Extended Idaho Family)
My goal with breaking the stigma's around Alzheimer's began when I realized the grief process before my grandma Bev passed away in my arms and the grief that began after she passed away affected me deeply and greatly.  It was pain that was deep in my soul. I had a hard time telling people about the loss of her, and bringing her up would bring me to tears. To add that she Alzheimer's only upset me more. I wrote an article earlier about stigma's. And I do feel my grandma Bev had her own stigma's about the disease. That is why she never "told me" she was sick. I had to get a judge ordered mental assessment on her along with a filed emergency motion of guardianship in order to make sure she was getting the best care she could receive. While I was more than "strong" during the process, it was after she actually passed that I felt really empty, ashamed and angry about the disease and watching her suffer for the last 10 years of her life.  I felt that if I talked about her and the disease I would be judged. As mentioned in my early article, if my grandma did come up in a conversation and I mentioned what happened friends, family and strangers were compassionate.

I began thinking of her and her side of the family and I knew that my great great aunt Nomi is sick and my grandma's cousin Mike is sick. They both have Alzheimer's.  However I failed to remember this daily because my thoughts consuming me of my grandma. These two other family members my grandma loved greatly and adored. I began to think of what Mike's wife is going through as well as my great cousin Diana... I saw Barb's updated post on Facebook and this one over the weekend that brought me to tears on my run



(My cousins Barb & Mike Johnson in Idaho)




(My great cousin Mike with my son in 2011)
"Thursday was undoubtedly the hardest day of my life! Mike was transported to a psychiatric hospital in Twin Falls, ID for evaluation of his Alzheimer's. He has been rapidly declining over the last couple months to the point I just couldn't take care of him (and myself) any longer. I have been dealing/treated for diabetic foot ulcers for ~ 4 months. He will be there for ~ 20 days of possibly longer. We will need to find a place for him when the evaluation is completed. Hopefully, we can find a place closer than southern Idaho. Please keep Mike in your thoughts & prayers! So hard to let go after 39 years! I now have to try to cope with the "guilt" I feel for having to do this. However, I keep trying to tell myself it will be better for him as well as me so I can hopefully concentrate on healing my foot. Since our Dad passed from complications due to diabetic foot ulcers, I am aware of the seriousness of it. Thank all of you for your support! Alzheimer's is a disease I would not wish anyone had to suffer with - the one suffering or the Caregiver. I will keep you posted on the outcome."

At the end of June my great cousin Diana informed me that my great great aunt Nomi was also doing really bad.  I hurt for both of Barb and Diana.  I do understand many of the emotions they are going through first hand. At the end of the day I just wanted to hug them both and take the pain away. I guess we are bonded deeper than just family as we have all experienced making a decision for a dear loved one with Alzheimer's along with having guilt or a stigma around it. So as you see in my family we have more than 1 family member that has Alzheimer's and that is simply to many.  I only hope we can begin to talk about it more. However painful it may be. The power of sharing our feelings and raising money for a cure are both very powerful.  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Smell test may help detect Alzheimer's

(CNN) -- In the future, a test of your sense of smell may help doctors predict your risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to new research presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, this week.
In two separate studies, scientists found that people who were unable to identify certain odors were more likely to experience cognitive impairment. The researchers believe that brain cells crucial to a person's sense of smell are killed in the early stages of dementia.
Researchers say this information could help doctors create a smell test to detect Alzheimer's earlier. Early detection means early intervention and treatment to slow the progression of the disease. Doctors today can only diagnose Alzheimer's disease once it has caused significant brain damage.
"In the face of the growing worldwide Alzheimer's disease epidemic, there is a pressing need for simple, less invasive diagnostic tests that will identify the risk of Alzheimer's much earlier in the disease process," Heather Snyder, director of medical and scientific operations for the Alzheimer's Association, said in a statement.
More than 35 million people worldwide live with dementia today, according to a new report. By 2050, that number is expected tomore than triple to 115 million.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Lifestyle choices can cut Alzheimer toll, says study

Paris (AFP) - Millions of cases of Alzheimer's could be prevented by altering lifestyle habits which increase risk of the tragic memory-robbing disease, scientists said on Monday.
Alzheimer's is an age-related brain condition that experts suspect is influenced by both genes and the environment.
The population boom and longer lifespans mean that more than 106 million people will be living with Alzheimer’s by 2050 compared with 30 million in 2010, according to predictions.
The study, led by Carol Brayne, a professor of public health at at the University of Cambridge, looked at seven risk factors for which there was strong evidence of an association with the disease.
These were diabetes, midlife hypertension, midlife obesity, physical inactivity, depression, smoking and low educational attainment.
By reducing the relative risk from each of these factors by 10 percent, it should be possible to slash global prevalence of Alzheimer’s in 2050 by 8.5 percent, preventing nine million cases, it said.
A 2011 estimate said that as many as one in two cases of Alzheimer's could be prevented through changes in lifestyle and personal wellbeing.
But the new study said that this estimate was too high, as some of the risk factors are intertwined.
For instance, diabetes, hypertension and obesity are linked with physical inactivity and all in turn are influenced by educational level.
The paper is a mathematical model based on the notion that the seven risk factors are causes rather than just statistical associations -- an assumption that is often fiercely debated in medicine.
"Although there is no single way to prevent dementia, we may be able to take steps to reduce our risk of developing dementia at older ages," Brayne said in a press release issued by Cambridge.
"We know what many of these factors are, and that they are often linked.
"Simply tackling physical inactivity, for example, will reduce levels of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, and prevent some people from developing dementia as well as a healthier old age in general – it’s a win-win situation."
The paper appears in the journal The Lancet Neurology.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Happy Birthday Grandma Bev !!!!! JULY 10, 2014!!!



(My Grandma and I during a visit in 2011)
Grandma and I took a "Selfie" during a visit.
My Grandma meeting her Great Grandson Grant September 2010



Tomorrow July 10, 2014 would have been my grandma Bev’s 86th birthday. We would have celebrated with a good meal, maybe some cake, a lot of laughs and photos. She would have played with Grant while hugging him and snuggling him on her lap. As she had a lot of love to give. She would have teased me about cooking, cleaning or patted me on my butt in her grandma way. She would have told me she was so happy to be alive and to see her great grandson and my success as a business owner and fully time Vice President of Sales.  She would have been thrilled with my 40lbs weight loss. However tomorrow will be a day I celebrate without her, because of losing her to Alzheimer’s in 2012….
 
 I have  I have mixed emotions each year her birthday comes around. I am sad because I miss her. I am mad because I feel robbed of this beautiful person that is no longer in my life. I feel happy she isn’t in pain and she isn’t suffering and her spirit is free. All of these emotions are many from the life and death process of grief, however as I go through them I think to myself what a great day we would have had. Most years she counted all her blessings and would say “oh dear…I thought 50 was just awful, where did the time go?”  At the end of the day I have one grandparent living. My grandpa Don. He celebrated his 87 birthday three days before my birthday this year in March. We did all these things that we would have done with my grandma Bev (his first wife), except he isn’t sick and doesn’t have Alzheimer’s. We laughed, ate a great meal, held hands, cuddled he hugged my son and was the happiest I had seen him in his life. It makes me want to fight harder to put a face to the name with the disease with Alzheimer’s and find a cure. To me that would be the best birthday gift I could receive on her special day.

(I love this photo with all my heart. My grandma is looking at me and I am cracking a joke for her...)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Another Great One Passes Away to Alzheimer's....

I just learned via Facebook that another great person I know lost there life to Alzheimer's. The first job I had in high school from August 1997 to August 1999 was working for His Word Christian Book Store as a Book Store Clerk. This is a local family owned Reno business that is a Christian Book Store. The family had 2 locations. A Reno, Nevada Store and a Sparks Nevada Store. My boss Deidre was the daughter who ran the Reno store that I worked at.  Roger the father worked mostly at the Sparks location unless we had an event at the Reno store. I remember any time I spoke to him, he was pleasant. Over all he was just a really nice Christian man. The family and I all attended the same church, and got together outside of work after church from time to time to share a meal together. 

When I saw the post on Facebook last week I was sadden to not only hear of his passing but was truly saddened to learn that he had Alzheimer's.  My heart hurts for this family and I know the pain they went through watching there loved one slowly pass away from this mind robbing and body robbing disease. This only make the fire within me burn more that we find a cure. We are loosing to many great people to this disease.  My condolences and prayers are with the family. 



Roger David Pagni- August 8, 1941 to June 26, 2014

Roger was born in Fallon to Josephine Frances Ascagorta and Roger Jerry Pagni. He is survived by his wife Lorre, his daughters Deidre and Jena, son-in-law Matt Casci, his grandchildren Lucca, Marco, Portia, Enzo and Ofelia and his brother Louis Pagni. He was a graduate of Churchill County High School and Oregon Techical Institute. He worked at Lakeshore Equipment as a service manager for many years. When they closed he joined his wife in the business she had started, His Word Christian Bookstore and retired in 2012. He was a man of quiet but deep faith in Jesus. He was passionate about soccer refereeing which he began in the 80s when his daughter's' team needed volunteer AYSO referees. He refereed high school, college and adult leagues was active in the administration of several referee organizations. Roger happily spent most of his weekends at the soccer fields. 

He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease several years ago and began his slow withdrawal from his passions and activities. In June of this year he become ill with a systemic infection and then succumbed to pneumonia at Senior Pathways in Carson Tahoe hospital. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Breaking Stigma's Around Alzheimer’s

Breaking Stigma around Alzheimer’s
By: Brooke Morgan Westlake
June 25, 2014
(One of the last great photos of my grandma and I. She was visiting me in Reno. October 2005)

I have felt that there are a lot of stigma’s around Alzheimer’s for a while now. And I think I have finally begun to understand why.

When my grandma was first diagnosed she did not tell anyone she had Alzheimer’s. In fact she hid it for a long time until everything unraveled and she did not know the difference at that point if she was sick or not, but I did...  When sharing with others what was happening to her and what I was going through, I felt ashamed to say “My grandma does not know what is happening because she is sick, she has Alzheimer’s”. The A word being the last word in the sentence.  At the end of the day anyone I spoke to or with about my grandma was very compassionate but I always remember thinking to myself ‘are they going to think she is mental ill? ‘ or ‘She is old so of course she has Alzheimer’. I came to realize the stigma I felt around Alzheimer’s is common and the more I thought about it the more I thought about why my grandma never told me her “official diagnosed” until I read it on her medical record from her Alzheimer’s specialist. She had a stigma to herself and did not want others to know she was sick. She was a successful healthy active woman who skied till 77 years old, how could she have something that was robbing her brain and then her body of all its functions?


See there has not been a movement with Alzheimer’s yet like breast cancer or other top killing disease on the map. And by movement I mean empowering the actual person diagnosed to take charge and gain control of what is to come for them and their families. I see many women on Facebook empowering themselves after they are diagnosed with breast cancer.  They are sharing there treatments, and what stage of cancer they have and showing photos of themselves with a shaved head. Do I think that is easy? No, not at all.  But I see empowerment along with breaking the stigma’s surround by breast cancer or any other disease where the individual talks about it openly. Have you ever seen someone with Alzheimer’s recently diagnosed posting about it on Facebook? Not likely.  In fact the ones you might see a posts from are family members who are the primary care givers for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.  Why haven’t we broken these stigma’s around Alzheimer’s so that we can empower this disease and take it over? 

(Longest Day Every 6-21-2014 Dedicated to Grandma Bev, #ENDALZ)
The reason I started Remember My Photo was to honor those ones like my Grandma Bev, like my great cousin Mike and my great aunt Nomy.  All of these family members on my grandma side all have Alzheimer’s, but my grandma was the first was to pass away. It was also a way for me heal from her loss and to capture others loved one’s photo with the story about the person they were the things they did and liked to do. To give them part of the dignity and respect back. The goal at the end of the day is to put a face with a name to the disease.  The "A" "Alzheimer's" word is scary. We cannot live under the stigmas any longer as the disease stairs right back at us in the face with expected predicted number of 50 million people to be diagnosed worldwide with Alzheimer’s by 2050.  We must embrace life and the things that come our way. We can embrace the stigma without taking away an individual’s dignity and respect. We can simply do this by opening up and sharing our loved ones story or letting them embrace what is to come and let them share their life before it to late….