Last November or December, I was attending a YogaFit workshop, as I’m working toward my certification, and one of my instructors mentioned that Alzheimer’s is quite possibly Type III Diabetes. Just this week, I received an email from my dad stating that he’d like to know more. A friend of his had been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s and, I assume, was struggling with the diagnosis. With mental illness and disease becoming more prevalent in our society, and with people living longer, I thought I would touch on this topic briefly. (Please note: I’m not a doctor. These thoughts are a combination of research and speculation.)
So, what is Alzheimer’s? According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is “a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior.” I’ve seen this personally. My grandmother slowly descended into memory loss.
First it was short term things, like what she was supposed to do or reminding us about the same thing three times within ten minutes because she’d forgotten that she’d already said it. Then it was forgetfulness unless everything was written in the calendar. Then it was forgetting how to drive, being too distracted by the surroundings to pay attention to the cars stopping ahead. Then it was forgetting the rest of us…our names. Those who came into her life last, it seemed, she remembered last.
I will say that it was a relief when she passed away. It is a terrible thing to watch a person slowly slip away. It isn’t that they’re gone. Much of the angry outbursts that occur when people have some form of dementia stems from the frustration that they cannot remember as they used to or the cannot communicate as they used to. Often times, it’s the latter. Seniors get very upset when they feel like they’re locked within themselves. Think about it? Would you like to be imprisoned within your own mind?
The other terrible thing about Alzheimer’s and like dementias is that there are not treatments for them, and they are not a normal part of aging. Research suggests that Alzheimer’s comes from lower levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factors. Here is a slideshow with more information on the possibility. For those of us who don’t speak Doctor, here’s a decent translation. Here’s another.
The statistics are not good. By 2030, we may see the numbers of those who suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s double. However, this does not mean that we cannot help prevent or slow down mental disease. Here are some great ways to do so:
- Eat more turmuric
- Eat a nutritious diet low is processed foods
- Exercise, exercise, exercise: be active!
- Work your brain: not only can it help fend off forgetfulness, it can also add years to your life
- Consider meditation
Most of all, live and enjoy life. One thing that one of my yoga instructors said to me that profoundly impacted my thinking is this. The more we think it will happen to us, the more likely it will. Our bodies internalize our thoughts via the enteric nervous system, a subdivision of the parasympathetic nervous system. It is often called “the second brain.” The nerves and neuropeptides in our gastrointestinal tract function separately from the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).(Source: Lecture, Yoga for the Brain, by Stephanie Shorter)
Ever wonder why you do a detoxifying cleanse and, by day three, you’re a grouch. That’s your liver breaking down the neuropeptides–emotion signals from the brain–that have been stored in it. With our tendency to focus on the negative, to beat ourselves up (a big one for me), to desire to relive what cannot be undone, it’s little wonder we produce so many negative emotions. In and of themselves, they are not necessarily bad, but they should be let go of as soon as possible. It just isn’t healthy to hold onto emotions that are so powerful, they lead to anxiety attacks, shortness of breath, nervous breakdowns, heart attacks and strokes, depression, and even obesity. Emotional eating, anyone?
I don’t know if the enteric system plays a part in Alzheimer’s. What I do know is that we all are given a certain time on this earth. Use it well. Don’t fret so much. Instead, try to take care of yourself the best you can, and in doing so, reach out to others. It may benefit you in the long run. Even if it doesn’t, at least you’ll have better memories and leave behind your touch upon the world: a remembrance.