Today, nearly seven years after disability retirement due to Alzheimer's and over five years since diagnosis, I'm still living Alzheimer's, and have come to think of myself as a survivor.
By Wantland J. (Jay) Smith
I don't expect my program to cure me, or ultimately change my fate, but I do believe it is giving me a substantially better quality of life, and extending my useful years.
First, I believe my program is best geared to those of us living with the early stages of the disease. I would also offer that Bob DeMarco, in my view, has shown himself to be far more expert than myself regarding strategies for dealing with its later stages, as evidenced by the wonderful blog “The Alzheimer’s Reading Room.”
My approach was cobbled together from lots of resources and gleaned from my research that began on the day of my diagnosis.
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First, was my personal experience with The Optimum Health Institute in San Diego after I went on disability that focused on optimizing our immune systems with diet, exercise, and meditation.
I was also moved by the work of Dr. Dean Ornish, whose lifestyle program developed for his heart patients, based on healthy diet, exercise, and “love and intimacy” (Ornish’s words), was proven by his studies to be more effective in promoting long-term recovery from heart disease than any known medication or surgical procedure.
I was also greatly influenced Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Deepak Choprah, whose books and presentations demonstrate our body’s ability to heal naturally. I was also influenced by the books published by the Institute of Noetic Sciences on the subject of spontaneous healing and transformational living, and by the miracles of recovery created for decades by Jon Kabat-Zinn in his stress reduction clinic, as documented in his book “Full Catastrophe Living.”
Why not apply these concepts to Alzheimer’s? I had nothing to lose.
More Good Information on Alzheimer's and Dementia
- What’s the Difference Between Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
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- Test Your Memory for Alzheimer's (5 Best Self Assessment Tests)
- What is Alzheimer's Disease?
- What is Dementia?
- Communicating in Alzheimers World
- How the Loss of Memory Works in Alzheimer’s Disease, and How Understanding This Could Help You
- About the Alzheimer's Reading Room
The regimen I put together, like Ornish’s, is a three-legged stool of strategies, consisting of:
- exercise – both physical and mental;
- nutrition – including a healthy Mediterranean diet and a whole raft of dietary supplements including substances thought to prevent Alzheimer’s;
- creative self-expression and socialization (my version of “love and intimacy”) that includes doing my music, spending time with family, and participating in support groups.
1. Exercise. My aerobic excercise includes walking in my neighborhood several times a week, usually one to two miles, or 20 to 40 minutes. My mental exercises include doing the daily crossword puzzles and sudoku on the Los Angeles Times website, followed by the KenKen puzzle on the NY Times website.
2. Nutrution. My healthy diet is mostly vegan, with occasional fish, but very little dairy, and lots of vegetables. My supplements are multi-vitamins and minerals, plus extra vitamin B plus folic acid, and vitamins C and E, and omega 3 fatty acid. Specifically for brain health, I also take Acetyl L Carnitine, Alpha Lipoic Acid, CoQ10, and Phosphatidylserine.
3. Creative Self-expression and Socialization. My main activity and outlet is music. For eight years I’ve been singing in a community chorus with my wife Marilyn, and two years ago started vocal lessons.
After playing guitar nearly all my life, I also took up the mandolin about eight years ago. My ongoing musical activities include, besides weekly chorus and private voice lessons, a weekly folk-singing class that I lead at my neighborhood adult community center, monthly hoots, and performing in vocal workshops and with my family band with my wife and daughters. I participate in two early stage support groups that meet weekly.
I also spend as much time as possible with my family, and we’re enjoying our new grandsons.
Since putting the program together, I have been delighted to read weekly reports showing that I’m doing the right things, thanks to “Alzheimer’s Reading Room” and “Alzheimer’s Daily News.”
The reports, coming out of universities and the research community, continue to demonstrate the evidence of the benefits of one aspect or another of my lifestyle regimen in preventing or slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s. The studies are showing that exercise, mental exercise, healthy diet, and socialization, stress reduction, meditation, and creative self-expression are proving to be beneficial in a many long-term studies.
Imagine how I felt last August when that panel of so-called experts assembled by NIH reported its findings, after the conclusion of ICAD, that there is no scientific support for any of the lifestyle prevention strategies.
They categorically dismissed them all, saying there is no scientific proof of any of them. To them I can only suggest that they come out of their ivory towers and expand their view of science to include the many reputable studies that clearly suggest they are beneficial.
Science need not be hog-tied by the strictures of clinical trials, double-blind, and peer reviews that are the hallmarks of today’s paradigms for research.
This article was originally submitted by Jay in 2012. He is still going strong.Wantland J. (Jay) Smith was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease in late 2005, based on neuropsychological tests and FDG/PET.
Since diagnosis, he became an early stage Alzheimer’s advocate, creating the first early stage memory loss forum of the California Southland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association in October 2007, and led their second early memory loss forum in March 2009.
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