Archive for the ‘CDC’ Category

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

May 10, 2013

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? 🙂