In "Elegy for Iris," John Bayley tells of his enduring love for novelist Iris Murdoch as she sank into Alzheimer’s disease. When she’d insist on wearing socks while swimming or would constantly ask, "When are we going?" he was flexible and inventive in his responses. Now research confirms what Bayley knew instinctively: Caretakers can do a lot to lessen Alzheimer’s behavioral symptoms.
Delusions, aggressive behavior, irrational fears, agitation, repetitive behaviors, wandering, loss of inhibition or vocal outbreaks may be triggered by everything from overstimulation (too many people, too much noise or activity) to physical pain, such as arthritis. Determining a behavior’s trigger and removing it can be life-changing, for the person with Alzheimer’s disease as well as for the caregiver. Here are some examples of how caregivers have modified behaviors:
• Night after night, an 84-year-old mom would go into her daughter’s bedroom complaining she was frightened. Solution: Daughter left a night light on in her bedroom and installed a white-noise machine to block out "mystery" noises that might be upsetting. Everyone slept better.
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• Grunts and sighs punctuated an 80-year-old man’s dinner-table conversation, upsetting everyone in the household. His daughter-in-law suspected that he was in pain. Solution: An exam revealed he had nerve pain in his feet, made worse when he sat on a wooden chair. A cushion and a footstool have made his dinner appearances much calmer.
These examples show how small adjustments can have big payoffs for everyone! You’ll be surprised at the improvements you can make happen.
Get your (fat) cells into the rhythm
Your body is like an orchestra, and your central nervous system is the conductor. It sets a master clock that guides the timing of your cells’ daily duties. But bodywide inflammation, excess fat storage in your liver or belly, elevated blood sugar, stress – a whole ensemble of troublemakers – may "break" the rhythm that keeps cells functioning properly.
When that happens to fat cells, it changes the timing of messages they send to your brain. The result: You’re starving when you shouldn’t be (midnight snacking sound familiar?), and you pack on pounds even if you don’t take in more calories. Before you know it, your body is singing a new tune: Bye-bye, Mozart; hello, heavy metal.
We have got four steps to get your fat cells back in harmony with your body:
1. Eat three meals and two snacks a day. Go heavy on fruits, veggies, 100 percent whole grains and healthy fats (olive, canola) and proteins – salmon and trout are especially good.
2. Get physically active; walking 10,000 steps a day is powerful medicine.
3. Every day, take 900 milligrams of algae oil DHA omega-3; a probiotic; 1,000 IU of D-3 (1,200 IU if you’re over age 60); and half a multivitamin twice a day.
4. Head to bed at the same time every night for seven to eight hours of shuteye.
Aspirin against colon cancer
One aspirin has health benefits far beyond its pain-squelching powers: It reduces your risk of heart attack and stroke (we say, take two baby aspirins, 88 milligrams each, every day, always with a stomach-protecting half glass of warm water before and after); increases fat-burning; decreases fatty liver; protects against breast, colon, esophageal, prostate and ovarian cancers; and cuts your risk of dying from those cancers significantly.
And now, this most ancient of drugs (seems Egyptians used willow bark – it contains aspirin’s active ingredient – as a therapy for all sorts of aches and pains) is being tested as a 21st-century targeted cancer therapy. People with colon cancer and a genetic mutation (in their PIK3CA gene) who take aspirin daily can slash their risk of death from colon cancer by an astounding 82 percent.
About 17 percent of people with colon cancer have this mutated gene, so aspirin may save thousands of lives. And results start quickly: Two well-done colon cancer studies show that aspirin starts protecting you in 90 days. Just remember, if you’re taking aspirin to fight off colon cancer, don’t follow the every-other-day regimen sometimes recommended for heart health (theoretically, that can spare you stomach problems). To win this war (and you can), you want aspirin’s benefits every day, but don’t forget that half-glass of warm water before and after!
Soda’s knee-jerk reaction
If you drink sugary sodas, it can bring you to your knees. Guys who drink five or more sugary soft drinks a week are twice as likely to have knee problems from loss of joint-cushioning cartilage as fellas who skip all sodas. The researchers suggest that the ingredients in the soft drinks, such as phosphoric acid, artificial coloring and sugars, may be the culprits. This info, added to an earlier study that showed reduced bone density in women’s hips if they drank colas, should make soft drinks harder to swallow.
So if you’re looking for a way to add fizz to your holidays without risking bone damage (or empty calories), consider these beverages that come with a bundle of health advantages:
Carbonated water doesn’t damage bones and contains no calories: So, add a puree of fresh blueberries, raspberries, mango or kiwi to a frosty glass of seltzer, garnish with a sprig of mint and enjoy the heart-loving, gut-cleansing power of fruit, along with great flavor.
Looking for a festive winter cocktail? Opt for mulled wine (skip the added sugar) with healthy spices such as cinnamon (lowers blood sugar), cloves (fight inflammation) and slices of citrusy lemon and orange. A glass of wine a day (if your doc says it’s OK) can help you lower your risk of heart disease and memory loss. Cheers!