TV Causes Alzheimer’s Disease

That got your attention!

You may be wondering, “is she saying that watching TV causes brain damage?” Well, not exactly (but I’m not saying it doesn’t, either).

After years of studying what actually causes cognitive decline, research shows that a number of lifestyle choices have an impact on the development of degenerative brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s Disease. The big question, to me, is why do we make these lifestyle choices in the first place?

The answer, in large part, has to do with information we derive from watching television.

We may laugh about it, but the phrase “AS SEEN ON TV” remains a powerful reminder of just how ingrained the veracity of anything ingested from that medium is regarded in the minds of the American public.

Commercials shown on broadcast TV in the 60s and 70s revealed a desirable life filled with modern conveniences, including delicious, easy-to-prepare foods and marvelous labor-saving devices. The American Dream as I knew it was shown in vivid detail, in living color, on the ever-illuminated 19 inch screen in my family living room.

A diet rich in high fructose corn syrup, sodium and preservatives was tantalizingly promoted by the marketing geniuses of the day.

My loving parents demonstrated their deep affection for their family by providing the kinds of foods that were portrayed in those glowing scenarios. It never occurred to us that Madison Avenue had anything nefarious in mind. They showed us what we had to have, and we dutifully went out and filled our shopping carts with these yummy, brightly packaged consumables.

Some red flags went up when I was in the fifth grade and the school nurse called my mother in for a conference regarding my weight. I was a fat kid. I needed to go on a diet when I was 10.  I was introduced to calorie counting and cyclamates. One of the worst days of my young life was when cyclamates were banned for being carcinogenic. I had really enjoyed the foods that were flavored with those less-than-wholesome substances. Other sugar substitutes came along (aspartame and sucralose) to take their place in my dietary lexicon. After all, how enjoyable is life without diet soda?

I have fought weight gain my entire life. My quest for health has lead me to embrace more physical activity and a diet that goes against everything that constituted “normalcy” in my childhood. And this direction has developed as a direct result of having witnessed both my parents’ sad endings.

My father suffered myriad illnesses that had to do with his smoking (another habit promoted by Madison Avenue in an earlier time), consuming processed foods and not getting much exercise. He succumbed to congestive heart failure and vascular dementia, among many other things. He died at 76.

My mother, who had Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure developed dementia with psychosis and died at 86.

Everyone dies. But the suffering endured by my parents, and their descent into dementia was prompted by their diet and lifestyle. Understand, I am not blaming them. They were pursuing the American Dream, as seen on television. Nobody told them how the story would end for them. And I don’t know how differently they might have departed had they known what I have since learned.

I do know that food is medicine (or poison). What we consume plays an enormous role in how our bodies repair themselves and how we age. We don’t have to develop dementia. We can have some impact on how we mature. Unfortunately, the makers of the stuff that’s actually good for us don’t have a whole lot of money to advertise to us. They’re too busy struggling to make a living. So instead of leading a life that incorporates healthful food and smarter lifestyle choices, if we watch TV, we’ll be shown commercials promoting drugs that address the symptoms garnered by consumption of “convenience foods” packed with preservatives and chemically-derived flavor enhancers. And we’ll think of these as “normal.”

If you “ask your doctor,” as the commercial voiceovers suggest, they will likely confirm what you see on the screen, because they are taught to treat symptoms. The medical school curriculum does not include nutrition. They learn about conditions and how to treat them with drugs and procedures. Root causes are not discussed.

So, if you have concerns about your health, get outside. Move. Eat more vegetables and fruits. Avoid sugary drinks. Read books. I can recommend a few if you like.

And turn off the TV. That’s probably one of the single best things you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s.

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Shaken and Stirred

Teaching is a pursuit I really enjoy. Creating syllabi, designing presentations, setting the pace and structure for the instillation of concepts are all fun for me. I have a lot of information to share, and having the opportunity to disseminate what I know to enthusiastic seekers is a privilege.

This year, at Bergen Community College, through the Institute for Learning in Retirement, I am conducting a course called Dementia Sucks: The Class.” My book is the basis for the material, but I’ve gained a great deal of new insights since the book’s publication, and I’m eager to share them.

While I’ve delivered a number of classes and talks on this subject matter before, I have to admit this session was a little unsettling for me. I like to ask attendees why they come to my talks to ensure that I hit on topics people really want covered. This time, I got a surprise.

Two of the eleven students in attendance had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. This was a first for me. I am accustomed to speaking to people who are caregivers, or who are in the red zone for becoming caregivers. One gentleman was accompanied by his wife. The other was still high functioning enough to drive and conduct an independent life, but he was clear that he had this dire diagnosis and wanted to learn all he could while he could.

The way I structured the course, the first class was designated to introduce my qualifications, define dementia and outline the most important considerations for potential caregivers and potential dementia sufferers before the worst happened. The second class was about preparation and the third was about surviving. And I promised that in the last session, I would be discussing the latest exciting research and suggesting resources.

I had to gently change up my approach, because I didn’t want to upset the folks who were already in the grasp of this dreaded disease. And their situation is more urgent. Waiting to take action is particularly dangerous for them.

Something Substantial to Offer

In the last few weeks I have been lead by several different people to look at “The End of Alzheimer’s” by Dr. Dale Bredesen. I had noticed this book at my library recently, but I was in the middle of another book on the subject, so I passed it up.

Then I got followed by someone on Instagram whose handle is “Alzheimer’s Has Been Reversed.” I didn’t pay much attention, because I thought it was probably a scam of some sort.

At a business seminar, I spoke with a wellness coach following his talk. He suggested I read Dr. Bredesen’s book.

And then, leaving a business expo in New York I met another wellness coach. We actually had dinner together and she recommended the book.

Looking more closely at the Instagram message I’d initially disregarded, it was, in fact, about Dr. Bredesen’s work!

So I went back to my library, found the book and took it home. Apparently, everything I believed to be true about Alzheimer’s Disease, that it was caused by a variety of ailments and could be treated, successfully, with lifestyle changes, better nutrition, supplements, exercise and meditation, was empirically documented.

I don’t know anyone personally who has benefited from Dr. Bredesen’s protocol, but the reputable sources validating the work made it clear that it is legitimate. I emailed a link to my student (the independent gentleman) suggesting he investigate further.

The universe is miraculous, and I am grateful to be witness to this incredibly important development. I suspect the mainstream media will not be announcing this discovery anytime soon. There’s too much money to be derived from advertising the ineffective drugs that don’t work, and all the expensive ancillary services that reap profits from the misery of others.

It is my sincere hope, that while the rest of the world shakes their head over the latest political affront, that we will quietly guide those in need to this non-medical solution to a hideous epidemic and solve it before millions more succumb.

And I’m happy to do it, three to twelve students at a time if need be.

The Club Sandwich Club

Most of us have heard of “The Sandwich Generation.” This refers to the phenomenon of people caught between generations, helping their children achieve maturity and independence while also having to assist their aging parents. The pull on the attention of these people, who often have demanding careers and businesses, can not be overstated.

For those who run businesses, the problem is compounded, because they often employ staff with similar issues. Those workers are often in the unfortunate position of having to take time to assist their own family members. Distracted by their outside responsibilities, they may be fearful of revealing their situation to their superiors, concerned that they might lose their position if the true nature of their obligations was known.

With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, and 70% of those aging people destined to experience a long term care event, the numbers of family caregivers will increase exponentially. So the impact of this trend on business and the economy will escalate.

If you have never been a family caregiver, it’s difficult for you to grasp the enormity of the task. Depending on the circumstances, the person giving care can be in deep distress and potential in danger. And it’s absolutely imperative that everyone becomes aware of the frightening potential of this approaching epidemic.

The Meat of the Sandwich

Let’s first look at the basic caregiving situation. In virtually every family, there is usually one person who takes care of everyone else. Usually, it’s “Mom.” But 40% of the time, it’s “Dad” (especially if there is no Mom or if Mom is the one who is sick). Typically, this person works, either full or part-time. There may be a crisis, like a fall, or a critical illness, that requires immediate intervention by the caregiver-in-waiting.

There’s also the “sneak attack” care scenario: aging parents start asking for “favors” from their adult children. They need help understanding something: an unusual piece of mail or threatening phone call; news from a medical provider; a change in service from an insurance provider. Then it gradually morphs into escort services, rides to therapy, picking up items from the grocery store or pharmacy, and before you know it, you have a full-time, unpaid job that eats your life.

It’s not uncommon for these caregivers of aging parents to also have children. The expectation for those with healthy kids is that they will grow up, graduate from school and become independent. That is not always the case. They may have difficulty finding work in their chosen profession, or take a job and leave it, only to return to the nest. Sadly, many develop substance abuse problems, adding another stressor to the mix.

These are just some of the typical situations vying for the attention of family caregivers. These people also tend to have careers and subordinates who work for them (who may also be family caregivers).

Adding Zing

So, for the “Sandwich Bosses,” the people who run companies or departments, what are some ideas for improving their lives? Here are some ideas:

  • Put yourself first. If you go down in flames, so does everyone else you care for or supervise.
  • Hire the right professionals to do the things you don’t know how to do, like wills and estate planning.
  • Learn to say “no” when the demands of others are becoming too much.
  • If it’s bad for you, it has to be just as bad, or worse, for your subordinates.
  • Create an environment where it’s safe for people to talk about their situation. No one should have to fear losing their job for having to care for loved ones.
  • Teamwork is essential: cross-train employees to cover for each other so business can continue with minimal interruption.
  • Remote work: allowing employees to work from home can go along way toward easing stress on family caregivers.
  • Identify resources: there are places people can go to solve a lot of their problems. Being able to provide guidance toward support services and establishing formal policies can be a huge help to everyone involved.

These are just a starting place. Caregiving is complex and different for every family. Understanding what you’re up against, practicing self-care, and supporting valued employees can keep you and your enterprise moving forward as the demands of a growing population of people in need encroaches on your productivity. By preparing for it now, you can meet (meat?) the challenges as they will undoubtedly be delivered at your doorstep.

Ep 58_Tracey

For more on this important topic, listen to author Tracey Lawrence speaking with Tiana Sanchez on “Like a Real Boss”.

Numbers Games

Statistics have always annoyed me. Depending on who is providing them and what the agenda is, numbers can be used in all kinds of unsavory ways to persuade people to do things that may not be in their best interest.

I’ve also learned that no matter how you present compelling data, you will not influence anyone to change their mind unless there’s a good story to illustrate exactly what the numbers mean.

Here are some numbers that I find troubling and I am going to attempt to show you WHY you should find them troubling too.

10,000 people are turning 65 every day in the USA, and that will keep happening through 2030.

That means 3.65 MILLION PEOPLE are becoming eligible for Medicare every year, and 70% of them will have a long term care event. Long term care events (incapacity that requires assistance from another person) are not covered by Medicare. And these sick people are likely to live into their 80s and longer with deteriorating health, escalating expenses, and requiring that they receive help from others to get through their days. Where will they get this help? Will you be a helper? Will you, yourself, require care?

Over 40 million people in the US are family caregivers, most of them working and/or running businesses.

What’s the problem there? Family caregivers rarely get paid for their services, wind up paying for many of their loved one’s needs, often suffering illnesses and stress without getting proper care themselves. Many of them are Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. A growing segment is Millennials, and they are not getting the support they need. Being younger, they tend to believe they are invincible and don’t ask for help until they are in crisis.

Approximately half of family caregivers of people with dementia die before the people they are caring for. (For spouses in that position, the number is 63%).

If that doesn’t give you a panic attack, consider this: if the primary caregiver of a person with dementia dies, what happens to that person who needs care? SOMEONE will have to step up and fill in. Will it be you? The state? No one? Are any of those scenarios even remotely acceptable to you? Me neither.

What can you do?

  1. Get educated. There are things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones, but you have to get moving BEFORE crisis strikes. Human beings don’t like to be proactive. They would rather deny that there could be a problem, and when they can no longer deny the truth, they will procrastinate on taking meaningful action. Finding out what needs to be done while you and those you care about are still healthy gives you leverage and choice.
  2. Be courageous. Initiate the tough talk BEFORE crisis strikes. (But back off when you get pushback and try again when things cool down. Don’t give up!).
  3. Team up. It’s easier to make meaningful progress with another grown up in your corner. Seek out people who are respected by those you are trying to persuade.

Three problems Three steps to start addressing them. Sounds easy, right? Spoiler alert: it’s not. But if you want a “cheat sheet,” ask for this awesome FREE eBook: “8 Topics You Must Discuss.” It will help you get started with those three items on the to-do list above.

Want a good story that illustrates why being proactive is a great idea? Read my book, “Dementia Sucks.”

And if you’d rather not do anything right now, know that you’re in the majority. And that’s fine. You could, conceivably, beat the odds. Or you could be another sad statistic.

The Myth of Retirement

Once upon a time, I believed what I saw on TV. When I heard the term “retirement,” it brought a most pleasant time of life to mind. I watched my parents get there. I was happy for them when they’d arrived. Having worked hard all of their lives, it was nice to see them living it up and enjoying themselves.

The myth of retirement looks something like this:

  1. You stop working
  2. Start spending money
  3. Spoil your kids and grandkids
  4. Travel
  5. Do all the things you dreamed of doing when you were working and couldn’t
  6. Die peacefully in your own bed
  7. Angels escort you to heaven; cue heavenly choir

Unfortunately, for most people, this is fantasy. If you’re lucky, and you managed to put some money away, then steps 1 through 5 are certainly a possibility. However, there’s a significant step that no one wants to consider before you get to 6 (and your step 6 may not be “peaceful” or “in your own bed,” either).

For the vast majority of us, there will be a period of 20 to 30 years of “post retirement.” This is that sad time when we’re no longer able to travel at will and do whatever we want, because we’re sick or disabled. We are seeing doctors more than our loved ones. The time and expense of these visits puts a strain on our assets and our energy reserves.

If this is bumming you out, I apologize, but, dear reader, you need to wake up. Very few people have the luxury of going to bed healthy and happy and simply not waking up.

So here’s a suggestion: read a book that will introduce you, gently, to some harsh realities. Sit with the feeling for a little while. Then take action. Review the 8 Topics (they’re in the book). And if you want help from there, ask for it. Don’t myth out.