My Top 10 List of Ways to Stave Off Alzheimer's in 2010
Now that we’ve got one foot firmly planted into 2010, I thought it would be a good time to add a different take to the Top 10 lists. Since I’m no longer in a formal caregiving role for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, my attention has moved to a different set of concerns – what I can do to prevent this terrible disease since it seems to run on my mom’s side of the family. Therefore, I thought I’d share my own Top 10 list of what I’m going to do this year and I’ll hope you’ll add your own efforts to my list if you, too, are concerned about eventually getting dementia. So here goes:
1. Stop obsessing about memory loss. As a middle-aged woman, I find I have trouble finding words at time. In fact during happy hour with friends on Thursday evening, I was in the middle of expressing a thought and just couldn’t come up with the word “progress” to finish the sentence. But three days later as I’m writing this blog, I still can tell you who was there (Brenda and Eric), what we ate (queso, chips, salsa, and a margarita), and the topics we talked about (Brenda’s commitment to her church and the Eric’s work overseas, among other things). So my ability to recall those things is telling me that my memory is basically fine, even if I have some momentary slippage. And if I have a concern, I’ll bring it up to my primary care physician.
2. Maintain a good and honest relationship with my primary care physician. Luckily, I have a wonderful doctor with whom I can be totally honest. He’s not the type of doctor who wants to subscribe a bunch of pills right away (which I never have liked to take) and instead embraces a holistic approach. Therefore, I feel like if I start having issues mentally, I can have a good conversation with him about what the cause(s) might be and what I need to do.
3. Try to eat better. I’m being much better about being thoughtful about my diet. I am trying – other than the periodic queso – to embrace a Mediterranean diet, which studies have shown can have preventative effects.
4. Lower my stress level. Like many of you, I have a lot on my plate, such as watching out for an aging father, graduate school, juggling finances, and housework. I’ve gotten much better at stepping back and finding ways to relax, whether through meditation, a walk around the block, listening to classical music, or engaging in mindless activities (like raking leaves).
5. Get regular exercise. I haven’t been perfect on this matter, but I am trying to get to the gym on a regular basis and walk the dogs as well.
6. Maintain strong relationships. I just enjoyed a potluck with my neighbors last night, during which we laughed, gossiped, and reconnected. Keeping connections strong with my family members and friends is an important way to keep dementia at bay.
7. Try new things. I normally try to do an online crossword puzzle every morning, but I also try to do completely new things. Most recently, it’s been going geocaching with my friend, Sondra. And I’m going to try my hand this week at making Indian dishes (thanks to the cookbook that my friend, Ann, gave me). And this new culinary adventure will have an added bonus of using turmeric, which is believed to fight Alzheimer’s.
8. Be involved in the fight. I’ve been pretty active in contributing money to Alzheimer’s research, whether personally or through participating in fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk annually. This proactive approach gives me a feeling that I’m doing my part in trying to find a cure and puts me in touch with others who have a similar interest.
9. Give back to others. I was fortunate to have had great people provide mental and emotional support to me when I was a caregiver for Mom. Therefore, I think it’s important to share the knowledge that I’ve accumulated with those who are still in the caregiving trenches or who have an interest in learning more about dementia and caregiving. That could mean giving advice to a potential entrepreneur or just going out to lunch with a friend who is a caregiver to let her vent.
10. Keep my perspective. Some days, the world can get a little too crazy. It’s during those days that I look for the little things that remind me of the joy of being alive. These can range from getting a “hug” from my dog Noel and a snuggle from my other dog Zoe to watching the antics of my one-year-old neighbor. And the biggest way I maintain perspective is realizing that I’ve successfully made it through one of the most difficult periods – caring for Mom in her losing fight against Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
If, like me, you are concerned about the potential of getting Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, I hope you’ll create your own top 10 list of what you’re going to do this year prevention-wise. And I do hope you’ll share your ideas with us here because we can all learn from each other.