March 2014

How Lethal Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.  However, a recent study has found that it may be an even bigger killer than we thought. Researchers in Chicago followed over 2500 people who were 65 years or older and who underwent yearly testing for dementia. After eight years 1,090 participants died and 559 developed Alzheimer’s disease while being followed.

The death rate of those between 75 and 84 who were diagnosed during the study with Alzheimer’s disease was four times higher than those who were free of the disease.  It was three times higher in those over 85.  When the researchers took these numbers and applied them to American seniors with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010, it would mean that there were over 500,000 deaths in those over 75. That would be six times greater than the deaths reported by the CDC.

In other words, there are many more people dying of Alzheimer’s disease than we think. The reason for this is that death certificates report the immediate cause of death.  Often the chronic underlying cause is not reported.

Alzheimer’s disease results in memory loss from a progressive deterioration of the brain.  We still are not sure of the cause.  As people become more debilitated they have trouble with basic functions.  They may have difficulty swallowing, forget to drink and eat, and have trouble walking and balancing.  The common causes of death are aspiration pneumonia, which occurs from inhaling food as a result of trouble swallowing, dehydration due to lack of fluid intake and hip fractures as a result of falling.

Knowing the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on quantity of life as well as quality is extremely important. Not only does it take an emotional toll on family and loved ones, the cost to society is huge.  As the baby boomers continue to age, the numbers of those afflicted with this devastating disease will be skyrocketing.  The costs to care for these patients as well as loss of productivity will be enormous.

Recognizing the increase in the death rate hopefully will garner funding and accelerate new research projects.  We must find a cure for Alzheimer’s before it crushes our families and medical system and threatens our economy even more than it already has.

Time To Take Action

 

Just over a week ago we lost a family friend to a heroin overdose.   A drug that was rarely found in the mainstream when I was growing up is now extremely common in high schools, Middle American neighborhoods and even Wall Street. We have a major epidemic going on and it is out of control.  This one will eventually touch each and every one of us if we do not get a handle on it.

The use of heroin is being fueled by the exploding abuse of prescription pain medications such as Vicodan, Percocet and Oxycontin.   The medical establishment has gotten wise to this and has made it more difficult to get these medications by prescription. People who have become hooked on them are now finding they are expensive to buy on the street.  They turn to heroin, which is a much cheaper alternative.  Unfortunately, heroin is laced with many other things. Most recently a very powerful drug called Fentanyl has been added resulting in multiple deaths from accidental overdoses. 

We are losing our youth to this horrible epidemic.  It is frightening and incredibly tragic. What can we do to turn this around?

Awareness is the first step.  We need to recognize that this is a problem for all of us. Then we need to look at the bigger picture. Why are our children turning to drugs in the first place? There are many theories out there.  The one that seems most plausible to me is that our society has become very complicated. Perfection is being paraded across our media screens. We have instant critiques on social media and for many of us our lives seem to be moving fast and out of control.  This causes people to numb out and turn to things such as food, medication, alcohol and of course, drugs.

As a parent, what can you do?

·      I see parents out with their children more often than not, totally focused on their cell phones. It is disheartening. Get your children outside.  Step away from your phones. Step away from your computers and be there to have fun and speak with your children, and when they talk to you, listen.

·      Eat healthy.  It is essential for mental health that we eat a healthy diet.  Fruits, vegetables, lean protein and avoidance of processed foods are a must. Children follow by example.  It is important that we model good behavior for our kids. When they see you stress eating, they will stress eat. When they see you eating healthy, they will eat healthy.

·      Exercise. It boosts endorphins  (those feel good chemicals) and teaches children healthy habits. It also is an important tool for handling stress.

·      Most importantly, love your children and help them to understand that perfection is an illusion. It does not exist.   They do not need to be the star on the soccer team or a Harvard graduate to deserve your approval. They need to know that they are worthy of being loved regardless of what they achieve. The key is that they realize they are enough.

We all fall and we all fail. Be there to listen and nurture and console, but let them fail. This is how we learn. 

There is no guarantee in life.  And, drug abuse can occur in any family. Believe me, I know.  However, if we are able to have children who learn how to cope with anxiety and fear in healthy ways and who feel loved and secure, I think that we will see many of the problems start to diminish.  It is time as individuals that we take control and these simple steps can be very powerful. Start today. All of our children and the health of our society depend on it.

 

It Is Spring….Got Allergies?

 

Spring is filled with flowers, green grass, and for some…sneezing, wheezing and runny eyes and noses! The most likely cause of spring allergies is tree pollen. However, mold and animal dander can also be contributing.

How can you know for sure? Get allergy tested. If your doctor can pinpoint the cause of your symptoms, the therapy can be tailored to what you need. Treatment could involve allergy shots or medications and help you to avoid a lot of grief.

How can you tell the difference between allergies and a cold? Both can cause a runny nose and eyes, but a cold usually has fever, aches and pains associated with it and it usually ends within about ten days. How can you avoid allergies? You might want to avoid the heavy pollen times, which are the early morning and late afternoons, by staying indoors. Use your air conditioner and keep the windows closed. Wash your clothes if you have been outside and use the dryer. That will help filter out the pollens from your clothes.

If you can’t avoid pollen, you may need to try medications. There are many over the counter antihistamines now that include Benedryl, Allegra, Claritan, and Zyrtec. They block the histamine reaction that is triggered by pollen. Decongestants such as Sudafed will dry up your nasal congestion. Steroid nasal sprays will reduce inflammation.

Often people with allergies will also have asthma. This may result in wheezing, shortness or breath and can have deadly consequences. That is why it is important to have your allergies assessed and treated.

 

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