If a Swedish study of 800 women, which spanned forty years beginning in 1968 has valuable information in it, it is that major stresses in life do matter. This study found an increase in Alzheimer’s with the correlation of the amount of stresses and symptoms of distress in women. Another words, more stresses and more symptoms of distress equal more chances of occurrence of the deadly dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s affects 5 million Americans and is the 6th leading cause of death. This Alzheimer’s disease puts a burden on caregivers for sure. Evidence also shows it begins ten years before we even see it manifest itself.
When we are stressed we raise our levels of cortisol, the fight or flight syndrome ensues. This is okay for the short term but can influence the brain and heart through inflammation by way of hormones. Not good for our long term health. The Swedish study and its author do indicate more studies are needed to help people then learn to cope with stress.
Massachusetts General Hospital has reported it found two additional gene mutations which increase your chances of getting Alzheimer’s. ADAM10, a mutation in this fifth gene which is linked to Alzheimer’s makes beta-amyloid proteins increase in the brain. This gene mutation specifically affects the hippocampus. It prevents the formation of nerve related cells. This area of the brain is essential to memory and learning.
Five million Americans have Alzheimer’s now and the prediction is that this disease could impact three times that amount of people especially as we age. See what the difference in the brain looks like here.
Research for Alzheimer’s gets $500 million, cancer gets $6 billion, heart disease $5 billion and HIV-AIDS gets $3 billion. President Obama has pledged another 100 million which is a 20% increase in his 2014 budget.
Old age and the brain, who gets this and who doesn’t? Is it inevitable as we are living longer and longer? Does it take a midlife crisis to spur on the dreaded disease? Which midlife crisis is the culprit? Is it death of spouse or child, divorce, or maybe moving? Or could it be loss of job, mental illness or alcoholism in a family member? Maybe it’s the change of life and loss of hormones.
When we have babies and they fuss we are supposed to meet their needs (change diapers, give them a bottle, etc.) and if they still fuss we are told to change their environment. Walk into another room, go outside. This simple change often does help. Do older folks need a change of environment to engage them and refocus?
Use it or lose it; isn’t this motto telling us to get off the couch and move? After all we don’t leave our babies in car seats or swings all day, do we?! Of course not. Common sense says everyone needs stimulation, physical and mental. There is a triangle for holistic medicine. This simply means three parts: the physical, the mental and the spiritual. We must address all these factors in dealing with health.
Is it stress related in middle age or is it how we deal or cope with stress that is the determining factor? What role does diet play? Some research points to animal fats and excessive sugar intake as culprits. We don’t know just yet but researchers are determined to find answers, to find cures either through medicines, therapies or behavior modification.
The things we can do as Americans is make small changes through diet and exercise and the alleviation of stress. Even the mayor of New York City wanted to cut down the sugary drink size which could be sold. He wanted to De-supersize! He was just looking out for his citizens; that is his duty as a public servant.
My grandfather used to say, “Don’t worry, you’ll live longer.” He never owned a car and walked everywhere. He lived to be 93.
By Kim Troike