I read with great interest that the United States federal government is considering a plan that provides effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. Such a national strategy is desperately needed and long overdue. It is well known that Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of progressive dementia, will increase significantly from the 5.4 million persons affected today to over 15 million by the middle of this century.
The nation already expends nearly 200 billion dollars annually in the care of those with Alzheimer’s disease and there are nearly 15 million caregivers who are directly or indirectly affected by the disease. Indeed, our entire society is affected and the national strategy is an important step. Former Speaker Gingrich has talked openly about the need for the neurosciences to be a major source of innovation for the health of the brain and I hope other politicians help to make this a reality. The Obama Administration is developing the first National Alzheimer’s Plan to address the medical and social problems of dementia. This plan is not just for treatment, but also for better daily care for dementia patients and their caregivers.
Among the major goals of the plan are to:
- Begin a national public awareness campaign of dementia’s early-warning signs to improve early diagnosis.
- Give primary care doctors the tools assess signs of dementia as part of Medicare’s annual checkup.
- Have caregiver’s physical and mental health regularly checked.
- Improve care planning and training for families, so they know what resources are available for their loved one and for themselves.
These are important and necessary goals for inclusion in any national plan. However, they are not comprehensive which is what is needed. Some critics of the plan argue that the government is not being bold enough. My suggestions for a more comprehensive plan would include the following additional goals:
- Teach the basics of the human brain to every middle school student in order to develop personal investment in the workings of the brain and how to keep the brain healthy.
- Promote and prioritize a brain health lifestyle ® using the latest research on what we can do individually and as a society to live a proactive and lifelong lifestyle that promotes the health of the brain.
- Understand that diseases the manifest late in life begin early in life. We need to consider early nonmedical interventions such as education, diet, spirituality, mental stimulation, and socialization tools that begin when a baby is developing in the womb.
- Create tax benefits for families who care for their loved ones or pay for others to care for them in the person’s home.
- Create a chronic care system for older adults that understands chronic care is not the same as acute care and that hospitals are actually not a healthy place for older adults to be admitted.
- Incentive medical doctors and other health care professionals to become specialized in geriatrics and to promote “primary care status” to the geriatrician.
- Include brain health lifestyle ® within every wellness program and incentive all persons to live such a lifestyle.
- Develop annual standardized assessments for persons to undergo to measure the health and functioning of their brain. The brain should be treated as a priority rather than continue to be neglected in our culture.
- Revise the antiquated and outdated nursing home model of care.
- Increase the funding for dementia care, lifestyle approach, and caregiver programs sufficient to achieve success much earlier than 2025.
Sometimes it is worthwhile to stop and consider how brilliant and powerful the human brain is that it permits us to not only observe life unfolding in front of us, but also record it forever. Memory is such a fascinating and complex behavior that we do not fully understand how it works. Our ability to remember, however, permits us to build our autobiography, our own personal life story.
The brain is really not like a computer because there is not finite space or hard drive. Indeed, the brain has plasticity and can continue to encode and retain new experiences across the lifespan. This creates a dynamic and fluid capacity for our autobiography to be developed and told.
It is true that some memories are not positive and may be difficult to erase from the life story. This can lead to post-traumatic-stress-disorder and may reduce a person’s ability to function normally. Fortunately, we can replay the positive memories in our lives and this can help to create feelings of happiness and to ease our sorrow when we grieve the loss of a loved one.
Today, the United States honors its veterans for their dedication and sacrifice to our freedom and liberty. Veterans are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and many have fallen to the call of duty. I hope the families of all veterans tap into the positive memories of their loved ones to make this special holiday a good one.
Happy Memorial Day!
Many people sleep six or fewer hours a day, but they don’t come by it naturally. They rely on caffeinated drinks and alarm clocks to keep them going.
But about 5 percent of the population are considered naturally short sleepers — meaning they go to bed at a normal hour and wake up alert and energized in the wee hours of the morning, sleeping about two hours less a night than the average person. Finding out what makes short sleepers tick and why they need so much less sleep than the rest of us could unlock answers about insomnia and other sleep problems.
In a landmark study, University of California-San Francisco researchers have identified a gene mutation associated with less sleep, a finding considered to be a major breakthrough in sleep science. To learn more, read the full story, “Mutation Tied to Need for Less Sleep Is Discovered”.
Sleep and Brain Health
Baby boomers can hardly believe it themselves. In 11 short years – by 2020 – they will hold that unthinkable collective title of “the older generation.”
Just as that milestone looms large, so do statistical realities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2020 almost 20 percent of the U.S. population will be over 65; over 12 million people will be over 85; more than 500,000 Americans will be over 100 – the fastest growing age group of all!
How fast can you say “geriatrics”? The field is exploding by necessity. And providers are realizing the best way to tame projected healthcare needs is by taking preventive, proactive measures – now.
One area rife with possibility is brain fitness.
Yet baby boomers live in fear of Alzheimer’s disease and its accompanying dementia, rating it second only to cancer as their most dreaded medical diagnosis.
There is good news: there’s plenty that can be done to prevent cognitive loss by keeping the brain enriched. Clearly, nurses need to be on the cutting edge of awareness to help aging patients and families stay on the healthy aging highway.
Paul Nussbaum, PhD, associate adjunct professor, department of neurological surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania has been lecturing across the country in an effort to educate healthcare providers, senior specialists and John Q. Public of the necessity for brain fitness.
The Promise of Brain Fitnes with Dr. Paul Nussbaum
SUMMER may not be the best time to cook, but it’s certainly among the best times to eat. Toss watermelon and peaches with some ingredients you have lying around already, and you can produce a salad that’s delicious, unusual, fast and perfectly seasonal.
In theory, each salad takes 20 minutes or less. Honestly, some may take you a little longer. But most minimize work at the stove and capitalize on the season, when tomatoes, eggplant, herbs, fruit, greens and more are plentiful and excellent.
This last point is important. Not everything needs to be farmers’ market quality, but it’s not too much to expect ripe fruit, fragrant herbs and juicy greens.
Salt, to taste, is a given in all of these recipes. Pepper, too (if I want you to use a lot of pepper, I say so).
Herein, then, are enough salad ideas to tide you over until the weather cools down.
101 Simple Salads for the Season