Friday, July 24, 2009

Degenerative Neurological Disorders

The ageing brain is one that has previously been neglected by the scientific community until now. With the Boomer’s Silver Tsunami, more research dollars have been directed toward this segment of the population and the health issues of aging.

Canada has more than 33 million Canadian, with 13% of them over age 65. We know what happens with the ageing process, the part tend to wear down. In addition, health issues, such as dementia, begin to strike previously healthy seniors.

Currently, 350,000 Canadians have Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). This is only one form of dementia, there are many other disorders that cause dementia symptoms, my father’s brain tumour being one.

As our population ages, they predict that in 2016 Baby Boomers will outnumber the kids ages 0 – 15 years. There will be 50% more seniors than there are now.

The statistics are clear regarding dementia. One in ten of those over 80 will have AD and more than a million Canadian will have some form of dementia.

It is crucial, since there is a dearth of health care options for seniors, that you prevent dementia. We know how to do this. They are developing treatments, but much of the time dementia symptoms are ignored and it is diagnosed too late. Adult children are wont to take a parent to a physician for a diagnosis. My family mantra was, “I’m fine, dear!” when all the while mom had seriously spread cancer and dad’s brain tumour was destined to return. By the time you have a Parkinson’s diagnosis, you’ve lost half the neurons in the part of the brain that is affected. (Gregory A. Petsko, Ph.D., Professor of Biochemistry, Brandeis U.)

Prevention begins in Middle Age. And it is simple.

  • Keep your blood pressure normal. Chronic high blood pressure is correlated to dementia.
  • Glaucoma is AD for the eye. Get regular check-ups and care for your eye health.
  • Lower your cholesterol. There are many ways to do this, but women, typically, are underdiagnosed in all cardiovascular disorders.
  • Keep yourself mentally stimulated.
  • Exercise has a beneficial effect, hard to quantify, but we know how much better we feel when we exercise.
  • In the case of Parkinson’s Disease: caffeine is protective – a steady regular normal intake of caffeine is good for you.
  • Finally, avoid: head injuries, as Dr. Petsko says these can be correlated to dementia, as well.
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