She was young enough to be my granddaughter, it seemed too young to be a physical therapist supervisor, yet she was competent and empathetic. I say “empathetic” because she didn’t flinch when I blew up when being asked for the umpteenth time during my pre and post-op orthopedic surgery experience if I could remember three words.

“That’s ageism!” I snapped. “The health care system assumes because I’m older, I probably have some dementia on board. If you want to know my mental status, go on Amazon, buy and read my damn book!”

To her credit, she didn’t flinch, but explained that since she was closing my case, she had to ask those questions.

“What would happen if you documented that the patient found the question offensive and refused to answer?”

Puzzled, she shook her head. (Was I the only older person  who said their inane questions were insulting?) “I don’t know if Medicare would pay for the visit,” she said. So I repeated the three stupid words she’d given me, and we moved on.

Our Sophomoric Health Care System

I’ve heard that the word “sophomore” means “wise fool.” Another definition is someone mature and immature at the same time. In either case, I think that describes our all wise and all-knowing health care system. It assumes because I’m older, I’m likely to have more cognitive impairment than  younger people (some of whom I think have shortened attention spans because of AI, texting, and relying on internet research info-nuggets). .

Unfortunately, many older folks do have more symptoms of dementia than younger people, and I admit gauging mental status is important to fully assess a person’s wellness. But I bristle at the assumption that so many of us are demented that a “mini-mental” test  must become part of all assessments of people over a certain age. I don’t know about you, but after conversing with someone, I have a pretty good idea of his or her mental status…without tests.

In their infinite wisdom, other than pushing dubious pills, do doctors or other health care professionals address prevention and improvement of dementia? Do they have a clue it’s even possible?

On the Positive Side

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, here’s some research on brain wellness I’d like to share. Watch this video from Dr. Greger.

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/can-alzheimers-disease-be-reversed-with-a-plant-based-diet/?utm_source=NutritionFacts.org&utm_campaign=0354b5988d-RSS_VIDEO_WEEKLY&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_40f9e497d1-0354b5988d-29704488&mc_cid=0354b5988d&mc_eid=2114502bf0

From Dr. William Li’s book, “Eat to Beat Disease”[1]

The spice curcumin benefits the brain in three ways.

  • Brain cancer (glioma) cells commit suicide and die when exposed to curcumin.
  • It reduces blood vessel inflammation. Since the brain, like all tissue, needs a good blood supply, keeping those vessels in good shape is key.
  • Healthy neural stem cells exposed to curcumin grow into mature, normal neurons.

A study showed that fasting stimulates brain regenerative stem cells and blood vessels. On the other hand, a diet high in saturated fat damages stem cells that could regenerate neurons responsible for forming new memories, among other things. Also, saturated fats result in atherosclerotic, narrow blood vessels to the brain. If the brain can’t grow enough new blood vessels (angiogenesis) to overcome this, brain cells will die.

From Michael Murray’s book, “The Magic of Food”[2]

Seafood with red pigmentation (salmon, lobster, shrimp) possesses antioxidant abilities that help prevent neuro-degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s. The anti-inflammatory effects protect the brain and prevent vascular damage. Eating omega-3 fatty acid seafood helps brain growth.

Blueberries help preserve brain function as we age by reducing antioxidant stress and decreasing the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementias.

Cocoa, especially dark cocoa, helps blood flow to the brain.

Chess, anyone?

They spend more time asking me to remember three stupid words than they spend telling people how to keep their brains healthy. Frankly, I’d pit a healthy-eating older adult against any hamburger/French fry /Pepsi guzzling younger person in a battle of wits anytime.

Chess, anyone?

 

 

[1] Eat to Beat Disease by Dr. William W. Li, Md, © 2019 Grand Central Publishing, New York, Boston

[2] The Magic of Food by Michael T. Murray, ND © 2017 Atria Books, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney, New delhi