On Mortality, Memory Loss, and Alzheimer’s (Reference today’s CDC Report)

Well, phooey!
I was supposed to attend a Marine Corps dinner tonight, and I forgot. We only got the notice yesterday, and I never put it onto my calendar.
Meantime, that leads me into a discussion (you knew that was coming, right?).
The CDC is now publishing alarming reports that suggest that there will be a surge in the numbers of Alzheimer’s patients. They base this on the numbers who report memory loss.
That would be me.
I first noticed symptoms of memory loss around 1975. I was speaking German regularly, and I noticed that when I spoke English I would sometimes hesitate, not being able to think of the word I wanted. Often enough, I COULD think of the word in German! So I wasn’t worried.
But it’s gotten worse. I find that frequently I can’t think of the word I want; often my sons, who are accustomed to this, supply the missing word.
But I have a huge operating vocabulary. I can either think of another, not so exact, word, or if I’m on the computer, I can think of the definition and use Google to find the one I’m unable to bring out of memory. Google’s been very helpful to me.
So…is Alzheimer’s in my future?
Maybe.
A couple of things to consider. I’m now 73. Statistically, I don’t have much of a future. Add to that one heart attack (the bad news), but that was 16 years ago (the good news). No more blockages, but I do have an enlarged heart as a remembrance. I’m also diabetic. The good news here is that medical science can do a lot to treat diabetes and the secondary effects. I spoke to a man who’d had a femoral artery replaced and another friend had some of the blood vessels in his leg cleaned out, ‘roto-rooted’ so to speak.
I also have an enlarged prostate. The difference between BPH and prostate cancer is the number of indicators in the blood; below a certain percentage, it’s ‘benign’ prostate hyperplasia, or enlargement. Above that point and it’s prostate cancer. Again, good news/bad news. A lot of such are so slow-growing that doctors elect to do nothing, since the patient won’t survive long enough to die of prostate cancer.
So, is Alzheimer’s inevitable. Maybe not.
I began really working on mental or cognitive processes about the time I turned 70. I joined Mensa so that I might have a chance to sharpen my thinking against those who are already noteworthy for thinking skills. I found I could be on an equal footing with Mensans, and without tooting my own horn too loud, I tend to write longer, more thoughtful essays and commentary. So, equal or possibly slightly ahead of the pack. You Mensans can make your own determination; your mileage may differ with this conclusion.
And I became serious about music, which is thought to help with cognition. Plus I’m now adding one or two new songs to my repertoire every week, adding them to memory so that I can perform without aids. This indicates that perhaps my memory might be improving, at least in some sense.
And, FWIW, I wrote this little essay without pausing to look anything up. I called it all from memory and assembled it into a coherent whole. That, too, requires both memory and cognition functioning.
I can analyze current trends, extrapolate from those, and make conclusions about what is probably in the future. I’m more confident about the relationship between my conclusions and the near future than I am about the distant future. And yet, I cannot make any predictions about my own future. It’s a statistical certainty that it won’t be long. Ten years? I’d be 83. Twenty years? Yep, 93. Few achieve that. Many don’t even make it to 73, but I have.
Meantime, if I go bonkers, there’s Jeff.
Maybe we should recruit another moderator for my group, The Intelligent Round Table? 🙂

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3 Responses to “On Mortality, Memory Loss, and Alzheimer’s (Reference today’s CDC Report)”

  1. Invisible Mikey Says:

    I’m not making any assumptions based on your history, but it’s also possible that some aspects of your intermittent memory gaps are side effects of medications you may be taking for diabetes or your cardiac conditions.

    The main reason the CDC and others can safely assume an increase in dementia diagnoses is a “no-brainer” 😉 Nerve tissue has a sell-by date, and it can’t be replaced. The longer you survive, the more likely your brain will just plain wear out. If you make it to 90, your statistical chance of developing dementia (and that’s assuming no other negative health factors) is one in ten. By 95, it’s one in three, and by 100 – 50/50.

    Since a fair portion of brain tissue is redundant, you are doing everything you can by exercising to create new neural pathways and wake up some of that grey matter that sits as storage.

    • jlknapp505 Says:

      True, and a good comment.
      But there are also recent studies that indicate that old ideas of brain tissue aren’t true. New neural cells in the brain do form, and an active lifestyle appears to promote formation of such cells.
      I consider it fortunate that finally there is money to stimulate studies of the brain. Absent such, we’d be stuck attempting to care for an ever-aging populace who progressively are less able to care for themselves.
      Thanks for reading and commenting!
      If you’re on Facebook, you might like my group, The Intelligent Round Table. Just go to the site and ask to join; Jeff or I will approve you, or for that matter, the first member who sees the request will probably do so. No forbidden topics, and this entry was originally posted to the group for their consideration. Probably a third of them are Mensa members, and most of those are from other nations. China, Australia, most of Europe have representatives in the group.
      Jack

      • Invisible Mikey Says:

        No, there’s no such thing as new nerve cells forming. There are dormant areas of nerve tissues that can be activated. But we can’t grow it, replace it, or transplant it so far. Thanks for the invite to Facebook! I don’t do the Soc-Network thing, but it might change in future.

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