Dementia is something we all worry about


I was racking my brain trying to come up with a timely column this week. Somebody suggested dementia. I laughed. After a little musing I decided it was a fair topic to discuss.

I’ve noticed memory lapses, particularly short-term in myself. I don’t know whether most of it is real or imagined, but I’m concerned just like many people my age are. Loss of hearing and close range focusing also are an irritation.

I realize these are normal effects of aging and not specifically related to dementia. Still, I wonder how many people wind up with dementia after being told they are simply getting older. I don’t want to sound like a hypochondriac, but I think this is a topic we all should respect. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

There are many herbal treatments and I’ve alluded to several in other columns. Turmeric and ginkgo are two. Rosemary is another. In addition, we have all seen the Prevagen commercials.

Prevagen is a preparation from a type of jellyfish. One of the active ingredients is a chemical called apoaequorin. Conflicting information convinces me it is not a silver bullet for this problem. Potential side-effects are numerous too. The commercial preparation is also quite expensive.

CoQ10 is also a commonly referenced supplement. Numerous commercials extol this chemical. Take a walk down the aisles of any pharmacy for proof. Dozens of companies produce their version of coq10 and make huge claims.

Most of the claims for CoQ10 revolve around heart health. However, increased blood flow means more oxygen to the brain cells, and that correlates with better brain function.

Like many maladies that degrade us over time, finding a panacea is probably a longshot. That doesn’t mean we stop trying. It also doesn’t mean we abandon trying to live a healthy lifestyle.

We ingest foods every day that have high antioxidant properties. Antioxidant rich foods are important to proper health, especially when it relates to our nervous systems. Also, we don’t ever have to worry about getting too many water soluble antioxidants. Our bodies won’t store them very long. Brightly colored berries and other fruits are always good.

Exercise is never a bad thing. Neither is a balanced diet with as few processed foods as possible. Leafy green vegetables contain large amounts of folic acid. Folic acid is one nutrient often listed as helpful for lessening the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Wild caught fish like salmon contain large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids and they are recommended for any diet, especially for those fighting this problem. Vitamin D is also richly referenced in the literature. As one might expect from this, many medical professionals also recommend that patients spend some time outdoors.

Reading and writing are also widely recommended to reduce the effects of this problem. Those are things we all can do and they don’t really cost anything. Any activities that stimulate our brains can only help us.

I am not a medical professional. I don’t pretend to be. These are just my opinions. I expect that continued research will lead to earlier and more accurate diagnoses. That’s something we can all look forward to as we get older.

 

 

Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School (tmanzer@ecpps.k12.nc.us).

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About tedmanzer

I grew up in Old Town Maine and got a B.S. at the University of Maine in Plant Sciences/ minor in Botany. From there I moved to West Virginia and earned a M.S. in Agronomy at WVU. I also met my wife there. She grew up in rural WV as the daughter of tenant farmers who raised cattle and hogs. Their lifestyle at times was one of subsistence and I learned a lot from them. I've always been a foraging buff, but combining my formal botanical knowledge with their practical 'Foxfire-type' background opened up my eyes a little more. I now teach agriculture to high school students at Northeastern High School in Elizabeth City, NC. My wife teaches with me and we make a great team. I also write a weekly nature/foraging column for the local paper (dailyadvance.com) and frequently publish articles in several other newspapers in northeastern North Carolina. I also have written several Christian nature/adventure novels that I plan to publish eventually. One is a five book family saga I call the 'Forgotten Virtues' series. In the first book, Never Alone, a young boy comes of age after his father dies in a plane crash, and he has to make it alone. Never Alone is now available in paperback, Kindle and Nook. The second book, Strange Courage, takes Carl from his High School graduation to his recovery from a nasty divorce. The third book, Second Chances, takes Carl from his ex-wife's death and the custody of his son to his heroic death at age 59. The fourth book, Promises Kept, depicts how his grandchildren react and adjust to his death. In the final book, Grandfather's Way, his youngest and most timid granddaughter emerges from the shadow of her overachieving family and accomplishes more in four months than most do in a lifetime. I use many foraging references with a lot of the plants I profile in these articles in those books.
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