Could loneliness play a role in causing Alzheimer's?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

We could ask, for our study of dementia, does loneliness lead to the physical condition (Higher Cortical Amyloid Burden) that is a symptom of Alzheimer's? Or, do people with Alzheimer's grow lonely due to their decreasing ability to interact with others?

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that loneliness may be a cause as well as a result of Alzheimer's.

Loneliness is a debilitating condition. Since the majority of people with dementia are older adults, and since older adults are often isolated from society due to health issues or retirement, it stands to reason that they may deal with loneliness everyday.

The idea offered in this blog post is simple: If we know an older person who is alone a lot, let's reach out and visit. It is a simple way we can help them to be in better health.

Avoiding Alzheimer's

The bad news is that one in nine people age 65 and older in America has Alzheimer's, and about one-third of people 85 and older have it. (ref)

The good news is that studies are showing ways to decrease your risk of becoming one of those people.

One of these, the Zutphen Elderly Study, found that those with the highest total fat intake had a 240 percent higher risk of developing dementia. High saturated fat intake increased risk 90 percent and high cholesterol intake increased risk 70 percent.

Examples of foods with saturated fat are: fatty beef, pork, chicken with its skin, cheese, butter, and of course, various processed foods.

A later study showed that carbohydrates, not fat, are the bigger culprit of obesity leading to heart disease that leads to Alzheimer's. In the American diet, the biggest sources of carbs are: grain-based desserts (cakes, cookies etc) and yeast breads. Another very large source is soda pop. Sugar is a known cause of memory loss. (ref)

The easiest way to avoid the "bad stuff" is to follow the WYBIWYG rule. It's very similar to "What You See Is What You Get" or WYSIWYG. The only difference is that it warns: "What You Buy Is What You Get." What we don't have in our refrigerator or cabinet, won't show up on our table.

For most of us, what we see IS what we get! At the grocery, just remember the cow who says, "Eat more vegetables!"

Calves know

video on Wikimedia about PADClick for Wikimedia video about PAD

When you are with your parent who is over 50, have you heard them complain of pain in the calf of the leg while walking or at rest?

That may be a sign of PAD, Peripheral Artery Disease. PAD is a circulatory problem in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the limbs. It is also called "PVD" for peripheral vascular disease.

Other symptoms of PAD include 1) foot or toe wounds that won't heal or heal very slowly, 2) coldness in the lower leg or foot. A doctor can perform simple tests to diagnose PAD.

The incidence of Dementia has been proven to be higher among those with Cardiovascular disease with PAD. It has also been shown that PAD is a risk factor for Alzheimer's. (ref)

People with PAD may not have cardiovascular disease but simply have fatty deposits in their arteries, lessening their capability to transport blood. However, PAD can reduce blood flow to the heart and brain, not just the legs. Reduced blood flow to the brain will result in damaged cognitive function and the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's.

To fight PAD, a person should eat healthy, exercise, and stop smoking. All this is MUCH easier said than done. Yet, the prospect of memory problems is a strong encouragement to anyone who desires to be in good health well into their retirement years.

Most people who smoke or overeat want to do better. They may not understand why they cannot overcome their addictions. Perhaps if they can achieve a small victory, they will feel able to do better. For example, if they are in the habit of having dessert every evening, having dessert only on Sundays is an idea. Special rewards are more fun than continuous routine.

Some people are more encouraged to change a pattern if their sacrifice will help another person. If your parent is interested in homeless missions or a foreign mission, perhaps each skipped dessert can remind them to contribute a quarter to a piggy bank for that cause. Eventually, they will be able to donate a significant gift, and that may make them feel better than simply the reward of better health.