Do I have Alzheimer’s disease? No, not yet. At least I haven’t been diagnosed, but I have reasons to believe I’m at very high risk. My father, who recently passed away, had full blown Alzheimer’s and Dementia. My maternal grandmother wasn’t diagnosed, but was showing signs of it shortly before she passed away. Having a family member who had Alzheimer’s doesn’t automatically mean that you will get Alzheimer’s.
About 6 months ago I did the 23 & Me genetic testing. At the time, I wrote about my results in THIS POST, but I only wrote about the fun stuff. What I didn’t write about then was that the testing showed that I have the APOe4 gene, meaning that I have a 30% chance of developing Alzheimer’s after age 65. This did not surprise me. It’s why I did the testing. I know, some of you are thinking, “A 30% chance and nothing to worry about until 65? What’s the problem?”
The problem is that with Alzheimer’s, there are usually subtle signs and symptoms that appear long before a diagnosis is made. Most people ignore or hide those symptoms, or attribute them to getting older. I see those symptoms in myself. If I’m cleaning up from dinner and holding a container of chip dip that needs to go in the fridge in one hand and the salt shaker that should go in the cupboard in the other hand, over 50% of the time, I reverse them when I put them away. Yes, I know that as we get older we all have more forgetfulness, but in mine I see a pattern. It’s not just putting the chip dip in the cupboard.
I lose my big words more than I’d like. The multi-syllabic 50 cent words that impress people often escape me. It makes me feel quite lugubrious, when I want to say something and I know that I know a word for what I want to say, but I just can’t find it. (Yes, I’m trying to intentionally use big words as I talk about losing them) It’s a tangible feeling that I’m rummaging around in my head for the word and there’s a blank spot is where the word I want should be. And I can’t think of a simple synonym either! It’s like my brain has completely lost something. Sometimes the sentence I’m saying trails off or I just don’t finish it. Trust me, there are several other examples, but I’m not going to list them all. I know when something doesn’t feel right. I wonder if that might be why my blog, that I used to post to five times a week, has become something I just do occasionally now. Losing one’s sense of humor is a symptom.
So what am I going to do? I’m going to exercise regularly and I’m going to try to stimulate my brain to create new neural connections by learning. I intend to resume piano lessons, learn to speak Spanish, join a chess club, post to both my blogs at least once a week, and resume table tennis, which was a passion of mine when I was younger (I once beat a guy who played in the over 40 World Championship tournament.)
In addition to doing those things, I’m going to embark on a lifestyle/diet program that is supposed to have remarkable effects on preventing and reversing some of the cognitive losses of Alzheimer’s. If the results are as good as the book says, I will be very happy. Here’s the book:
Don’t worry, my blog isn’t going to turn into me preaching about Alzheimer’s, I’ll still try to write funny stuff, but I’m hoping to write about it and my journey here occasionally with sensitive humor. My dad losing his mind to Alzheimer’s over the last fifteen years, and me thinking that I might go down that same path is sobering. When I Googled “Alzheimer’s funny” to find some pictures for this post, I didn’t find the memes as funny as I thought I would. Some seemed mean or sad. Hopefully I’ll avoid that if I poke fun at myself in the future. Thanks for reading. I hope you’re having a great weekend! ~Phil