Last Week’s Links

Off Your Mental Game? You Could Be Mildly Dehydrated

How severe does dehydration have to be to affect us?

A growing body of evidence finds that being just a little dehydrated is tied to a range of subtle effects — from mood changes to muddled thinking.

Moreover:

As we age, we’re not as good at recognizing thirst. And there’s evidence that older adults are prone to the same dips in mental sharpness as anyone else when mildly dehydrated.

So how much water do we need every day?

A panel of scholars convened several years ago by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that women should consume, on average, about 91 ounces of total water per day. For men, the suggested level is even higher (125 ounces).

The phrase total water means that water from all sources counts: fruits, vegetables soup, smoothies, and, yes, even your morning cups of coffee or tea.

And remember that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already beyond the point of mild dehydration. According to the article, an hour of hiking in the heat or a 30-minute run might be enough to cause mild dehydration.

Hands off my data! 15 default privacy settings you should change right now

If you’re concerned about all your personal data that’s being collected, here’s some advice on how to minimize exposure on Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple.

Existing drug may prevent Alzheimer’s

Emerging evidence suggests that a “potent” drug could prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease — but only if a person takes the medication long before symptoms of this condition make an appearance.

Any advance against Alzheimer’s disease is welcome news, even though this one seems to offer a mixed message. The professor who oversaw the study thinks that it may never be possible to cure the disease once patients become symptomatic. However, he hopes identification of patients at risk and treatment before onset might “prevent it from starting in the first place.”

‘Too Little Too Late’: Bankruptcy Booms Among Older Americans

The New York Times reports on findings of a recent study from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.

Tyrian Purple: The disgusting origins of the colour purple

Even after reading this, purple is still my favorite color.

Purple is a paradox, a contradiction of a colour. Associated since antiquity with regality, luxuriance, and the loftiness of intellectual and spiritual ideals, purple was, for many millennia, chiefly distilled from a dehydrated mucous gland of molluscs that lies just behind the rectum: the bottom of the bottom-feeders. That insalubrious process, undertaken since at least the 16th Century BC (and perhaps first in Phoenicia, a name that means, literally, ‘purple land’), was notoriously malodorous and required an impervious sniffer and a strong stomach. Though purple may have symbolised a higher order, it reeked of a lower ordure.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

I’ve come across lots of interesting stuff lately.

When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life

I’m including this article on all my blogs this week because it’s important that everyone with any online presence, no matter how small, read it.

LIGHTHEARTED BOOKS TO READ WHEN LIFE IS HARD

Sometimes a book like this is exactly what we need. From Book Riot’s Heather Bottoms:

When I’m feeling worn down, reading is a much-needed escape and comfort, but I need a book that is less emotionally taxing. I don’t want to be blindsided by a heart-wrenching death, intense family trauma, or weighty subject matter. What I need is a palate cleanser, lighthearted books to help me decompress a bit and provide a happy diversion. Here are some of my favorites. These lighthearted books are charming, soothing, funny, warm-hearted, and just the break you need when life is hard.

How to Get Your Intuition Back (When It’s Hijacked by Life)

I have written before about how I learned to trust my intuition, so this article naturally drew my attention. Judi Ketteler writes:

Suddenly at midlife, the gut instinct I had long relied on to make important life decisions left me. Here’s how I learned to get it back.

Through a combination of research and personal experience, she concludes that intuition depends on context, and she needs to let it catch up with her changed circumstances as she enters a new phase of her life. I find this an encouraging conclusion.

‘This is just the beginning’: Using DNA and genealogy to crack years-old cold cases

This article caught my eye because very recently this process has produced arrests in two 30-year-old cold murder cases in my hometown of Tacoma, WA. The article provides a much fuller explanation of how DNA databases are used to solve old crimes.

Alzheimer’s may be tougher to spot in women, researchers say

Current tests to detect Alzheimer’s disease rely on measures of verbal memory – the ability to learn and remember verbal information such as stories or grocery lists – which women excel at, and allows them to compensate during the disease’s early stages.

The brain may clean out Alzheimer’s plaques during sleep

If sleep deprivation puts garbage removal on the fritz, the memory-robbing disease may develop

But while the new research is compelling, plenty of gaps remain. There’s not enough evidence yet to know the degree to which sleep might make a difference in the disease, and study results are not consistent.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here are some articles from around the web that caught my attention over the last week.

Alzheimer’s Patients Keep the Spark Alive by Sharing Stories

This heart-warming article reports on an eight-week storytelling workshop at Northwestern University that helps couples coping with Alzheimer’s disease stay connected:

Each couple’s story serves as a reminder of both the good and challenging times they have shared, experiences both poignant and humorous that reveal inner strength, resilience and love and appreciation for one another that can be easily forgotten when confronted by a frightening, progressive neurological disease like Alzheimer’s.

Don’t Throw Out Your Organ Donor Card After 65

I’ve been signed up as an organ donor since early adulthood, but lately I’ve been wondering how useful my organs would be now that I’m approaching 70. This piece explains how age makes those of us over 65 “particularly desirable as donors, living or dead, for older recipients, who represent a growing proportion of transplant patients.”

Diet, exercise reduce proteins linked to Alzheimer’s disease, study says

A healthy diet, physical activity and normal body mass index have been connected to overall better health, with a new study at the University of California Los Angeles suggesting the combination of healthful choices may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Just in case we needed yet another reminder of the importance of healthy eating and exercise.

Virtual reality treadmills help prevent falls in elderly

A small study suggests that adding a virtual reality obstacle course to treadmill workouts may help prevent falls among older adults:

“Our idea was to use the virtual reality environment to safely train both the motor or gait aspects that are important to fall risk, while also implicitly teaching the participants to improve the cognitive functions that are important for safe ambulation,” said lead study author Anat Mirelman of Tel Aviv University in Israel.

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Recent News on Aging

Anti-ageing pill pushed as bona fide drug

From the journal Nature comes this article that poses a paradigm-shifting question: Is aging a natural occurrence of life or a treatable condition?

Doctors and scientists want drug regulators and research funding agencies to consider medicines that delay ageing-related disease as legitimate drugs. Such treatments have a physiological basis, researchers say, and could extend a person’s healthy years by slowing down the processes that underlie common diseases of ageing — making them worthy of government approval. On 24 June, researchers will meet with regulators from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to make the case for a clinical trial designed to show the validity of the approach.

The article focuses on a clinical trial called Targeting Aging with Metformin, or TAME:

Plans call for the trial to enrol 3,000 people aged 70–80 years at roughly 15 centres around the United States. The trial will take 5–7 years and cost US$50 million.

The key to the significance of such research is that it examines a change in the way clinicians would approach aging: instead of treating conditions such as heart disease, cancer, and cognitive impairment that arise with aging, they would treat aging itself. If this were possible, aging itself would become a treatable condition instead of a natural progression of life.

Two Views of Aging While Creative

In this article for Psychology Today, Susan K. Perry addresses the question “What happens when prolific writers get old?” She contrasts two books by writers who remained creative into old age:

  • At Eighty-Two, A Journal by poet, novelist, and memoirist May Sarton, who died in 1995
  • Essays After Eighty by poet and essayist Donald Hall, recently published

About Sarton’s journal Perry writes, “Most of all I noted and appreciated her honesty about the highs and ever-more-frequent lows of her mood.” Perry contrasts Sarton’s outlook with Hall’s: “According to his new book of essays, he’s still at it in his mid–80s… . He omits nothing (or little) of the humiliations and challenges of growing old.” She continues:

Above all, Hall’s essays demonstrated to me that not all aging men and women become depressed to the point of not being able to be creative.

The 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s

Most researchers and clinicians agree that early diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease can help slow the disease’s progress. And if you’re at or approaching your older years, you’ve probably seen quizzes and lists all over newspapers, magazines, and the internet on warning signs you should look for.

But while early diagnosis leads to early intervention, some news out of the 2013 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference is troubling: An expert panel found 16 online tests for Alzheimer’s disease scored poorly on scales of overall scientific validity, reliability and ethical factors.

While such self-diagnosis tools may be unreliable, other people may be more accurate in recognizing these warning signs put together by the Alzheimer’s Association:

  1. Memory changes that disrupt daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

But don’t try to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease at home. Visit a doctor for a thorough examination and diagnosis.

For more information see Alzheimer’s Association.

New questions about why more women than men have Alzheimer’s

Nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women, and now some scientists are questioning the long-held assumption that it’s just because they tend to live longer than men.

What else may put woman at extra risk? Could it be genetics? Biological differences in how women age? Maybe even lifestyle factors?

Here’s yet another article indicating that we need much more research into Alzheimer’s disease: “A recent Alzheimer’s Association report estimates that at age 65, women have about a 1 in 6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s during the rest of their lives, compared with a 1 in 11 chance for men.” Further, evidence suggests that once women develop Alzheimer’s, their condition worsens at a faster pace than in men.

Plans are underway to study both genes and hormones as possible contributors to the increased prevalence of the disease in women over men.

The unforgettable Glen Campbell

David Wild discusses watching CNN’s film Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me:

Like a lot of people around the world, I have been listening to and loving the extraordinary music of Glen Campbell all of my life. Yet it was only this week that I could emotionally bring myself to see “Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me,” the very beautiful, very musical and even more moving documentary directed by James Keach that quite rightly received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.

Especially take a look at Wild’s list of the 10 most unforgettable of Glen Campbell’s songs.

Too Many Open Browser Tabs

Whenever I find an interesting article, I leave it open on my browser because I just know it will form the basis of a spectacular blog post. I’ve always done this, but in the past I would finally just close everything and start over again because the web is, after all, an infinite source of riches. But since I challenged myself to write a blog post a day in 2015, I’ve been less eager to close all those tabs down. What if I face a day when I can’t think of anything to write about?

My browser has now become so bloated that I have to do something to make my system work faster. Instead of just closing all those tabs, I’m resorting to a collection of the very best ones here. Because I have lots of wide-ranging interests, this is quite an eclectic collection. But every one of these articles is worth attention. I guarantee it.

The Moral Bucket List

New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks writes here about some special people:

ABOUT once a month I run across a person who radiates an inner light. These people can be in any walk of life. They seem deeply good. They listen well. They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people and as they do so their laugh is musical and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all.

Brooks distinguishes between two types of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues:

The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

He goes on to say that a while back he set out “to discover how those deeply good people got that way.” In the rest of the article he describes what he found out.

It’s a good article, and I encourage you to read it. But I’ve left this browser tab open for a while now because this article reminded me of a former friend of mine. She could, at times, act caring and loving, but I always detected the tiniest disconnection between her inner workings and her outer behavior. For example, one day after she had spent a long time describing how each of her three children had recently hurt her feelings, she paused for a second while looking at me, then asked, “How’s your daughter?” During that second I could see the gears working inside her head: “I’ve talked about my kids, so I should now ask about hers.” I knew she wasn’t truly interested, so I said, “She’s fine” and left it at that. She visibly exhaled with relief.

This women always blamed other people for any problem in her own life. Everything was always the other person’s fault. She even developed a convoluted philosophy of life—it involved a person’s True Center of Pure Being (her caps)—that allowed her to avoid having to take responsibility for her own actions. When one of her children made her feel down on herself, she would explode and scream at me, trying to make me feel just as bad about myself as she felt about herself. When I told her, several times, how hurtful her behavior was to me, she said that I should understand that she was under a lot of pressure. “I’m not what I do,” she said.

This woman is the opposite of the people David Brooks describes. One can’t simply invoke one’s True Center of Pure Being. She is what she does. We all define ourselves by what we do and say. And this is why she’s a former friend, not a current one.

Sex, Dementia and a Husband on Trial at Age 78

This article brings up one of those issues that’s so complex and deeply personal that I have trouble figuring out what I think about it. In Iowa, Henry Rayhons, age 78, has been arrested for having sex with his 78-year-old wife, who had severe dementia, in a nursing home. The couple was married in 2007 after each had been widowed.

The top-level issue is whether Mrs. Rayhons was capable of giving consent for sex. But the lower-level issue is the question of who gets to decide whether Mrs. Rayhons was capable of giving consent: her husband, nursing home administrators, her doctor, her children?

This case suggests that someone must take the initiative in setting guidelines:

Sex is one of the most ambiguous areas in the scientific understanding of Alzheimer’s. While there are established methods of measuring memory, reasoning and the ability to dress, bathe and balance checkbooks, no widely used method exists for assessing the ability to consent to intimate relations.

Furthermore, dementia symptoms fluctuate. What may be appropriate on one day may not be appropriate on another day. Even more confusing, what may be appropriate in the morning may not be appropriate in the afternoon of the same day.

I’m glad I’m not sitting on the jury for this case.

Parsing Ronald Reagan’s Words for Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

Lawrence K. Altman, M.D., reports:

Now a clever new analysis has found that during his two terms in office, subtle changes in Mr. Reagan’s speaking patterns linked to the onset of dementia were apparent years before doctors diagnosed his Alzheimer’s disease in 1994.

The findings of the study by Arizona State University researchers were published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Altman points out that these findings “do not prove that Mr. Reagan exhibited signs of dementia that would have adversely affected his judgment and ability to make decisions in office.”

But the findings do suggest that alteration in speech may one day be used to predict the development of Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions long before clinical symptoms appear. Earlier detection could lead to earlier treatment, which in turn could help reduce or at least slow damage to the brain.

This research used the same computer algorithm that other researchers have used to analyze changes in writing by novelists, which I have written about here:

Canadian researchers have reported that analyses of syntax in novels by Iris Murdoch and Agatha Christie indicated early signs of dementia (Ms. Murdoch died of Alzheimer’s; Ms. Christie is suspected to have had it.) The same analysis applied to the healthy P. D. James, who died at 94 last year, did not find signs of dementia.

Scientists not involved in this study caution that much more research is necessary before analyses such as this can confidently be used in examining for Alzheimer’s disease.