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PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-24-2004, 09:52 AM   #1
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PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

We taped this last week and just got around to watching it. I'm sure PBS will recycle it and it's worth the effort to catch it.

This is probably a very sensitive subject with anyone who's lost a loved one to Alzheimer's or is coping with it. I've lost a grandfather to senile dementia but I can't imagine the pain of dealing with Alzheimer's. Before the jokesters come crawling out of the woodwork, let me say that one of the ways I deal with my concerns about topics like this is to write about them and learn from other posters. I'm trying to share, not to score a punch line.

As most of you probably already know, researchers have figured out that the brains of Alzheimer's patients are messed up by the accumulation of plaque. First to go is the process of converting short-term memory to long-term storage (the hippocampus) followed by cognitive & voluntary processes. Eventually involuntary processes are affected, the brain no longer functions, and the body dies. This can take between 8-20 years. One school of thought is that at least 40% of us have or will develop Alzheimer's and that awareness is based on longer human lifespans and better detection methods. The problem is that there's not a cheap, reliable, widely-accredited physical method for detecting the presence of this plaque or the probability of acquiring it. Right now the best physical detection method is an autopsy.

Other researchers are trying to determine exactly what skills are affected by Alzheimer's so that they can develop diagnostic cognitive tests. This approach has been somewhat more successful but is still subjective & quite controversial. No one wants to make life-threatening decisions based on a series of pass/fail interviews. I think the malpractice-insurance industry is alarmed by the ideas coming from this area of research.

Some people can never remember stuff and others can never forget it. By the time you're entering your 50s you've probably figured out how to index the information that you need and how to access stuff that you'd like to know, and it has a lot to do with whether you can recall things by yourself or whether you need external reminders to trigger your memory. Those differences in memory storage/access can greatly confuse the process of determining whether Alzheimer's is creeping up on a person. For example my parents-in-law joke about "senior moments" involving their reading glasses or their car keys or the 1952 Democratic vice-presidential nominee. I can effortlessly remember & spew literally dozens of phone numbers while my spouse has learned to keep old college texts & notebooks to help recall the specifics of general topics that just don't stay in her cerebral cortex. The documentary points out that these variances are more an issue of memory organization & access and don't have anything to do with Alzheimer's.

The one common factor that's been identified by the cognitive researchers is the ability to spell a word backwards. (Just stay with me for another paragraph.) No one "knows" why this works. It's just been identified as an analytical skill (breaking down a word, reorganizing it, spitting it back out) that is lost by early-stage Alzheimer's patients. Of course you have to know how the word is spelled and you're not allowed to write it down in front of you before reading it backwards, but that's the leading indicator. It's crossed over from research to diagnosis.

If a doctor asks you your full first name and then asks you to spell it backwards, he's running a test. If you can do it, you pass. If you can't do it, you're not just having a stressful senior moment on a bad day-- you're struggling to use a former skill that's been destroyed by Alzheimer's plaques.

OTOH if your spouse is holding something behind her back in her shooting hand and asks you to spell onomatopoeia backwards, that's probably not a valid test but rather a prelude to a felony. Once the word on this diagnostic test gets out, I predict that soon millions of medical directives & powers of attorney will need an urgent update.

I'd be interested to hear from others who have seen the documentary or have some experience with this test...
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-24-2004, 10:21 AM   #2
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

Damnation, Nords. I can't even spell forwards.

Cheers,

Charlie

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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-24-2004, 10:41 AM   #3
 
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

I think the hippocampus is disappearing because they
are shooting too many, They should shorten the season also.

John Galt
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-24-2004, 10:46 AM   #4
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

Charlie, just be glad the test doesn't include spelling "Dallas."

Nords, I'm not sure what the point of an early diagnosis would be for a disease without a cure. You (or your family) will know if you have it, and the best you can do is prepare for it financially, legally, and insurance-wise.

Do you really want to pull the plug early? I'd probably want to hang around long enough to be certain it was irreversible just on the long-shot chance that a cure was found at some point during my decline.
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-24-2004, 11:16 AM   #5
 
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

While it may not be of help to anyone currently suffering, there has been recent clinical success with a vaccine that gets the body to "flush out" the plaque. Initial tries at a vaccine resulted in dangerous swelling in the brain. But newer techniques look very promising. With luck, it could be available within 5 to 10 years.
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-24-2004, 01:58 PM   #6
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

Quote:
Damnation, Nords. I can't even spell forwards.

Cheers,

Charlie
But you just did! F-o-r-w-a-r-d-s !

Sorry Nords, you did forewarn the jokesters and all.
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-24-2004, 03:39 PM   #7
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

Actually one of my greater fears. I read recently where a trial had proved that 400mg of vitamin E once a day and 500 mg of vitamin C twice a day reduced your chances of developing Alzheimers. I dont remember who ran the trial.

What happens if your name is Bob?


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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-24-2004, 05:43 PM   #8
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

I finally solved the "Dallas" problem. I had my security
software package set to block sending of my address.

Nords, I did not mean to step on your post, but
seriously, my brain does not comprehend spelling
backwards..... I have to visualize the whole word and
peal the letters off one at a time. It is really hard for
words like dyslexia.

Cheers,

Charlie

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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-24-2004, 06:29 PM   #9
 
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

Chuck,

Another topic - Have you been following the Vanguard Reit Fund over the last several months? - Did you buy on the Dip that you mentioned earlier this year?

If so, are you now thinking about selling due to the recent run-up?
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-24-2004, 06:48 PM   #10
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

Cut, yes I did .... 10% of my "coffeehouse". No, I
won't sell. I just wanted to buy right. I also put
10% into the TIPS fund on the dip and might raise
the ante over time. Both moves were lucky breaks
for me (so far). Two other recent moves were to
shift my 10% in Value Index to Windsor II and
10% into Intermediate Term Bond Index from Short
Term Corporate. Nothing major .... just the unclemick
syndrome.

Cheers,

Charlie
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-25-2004, 04:48 AM   #11
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

Quote:
I read recently where a trial had proved that 400mg of vitamin E once a day and 500 mg of vitamin C twice a day reduced your chances of developing Alzheimers.
I read that Ginko Biloba is prescribed by a number of European doctors for memory. If a person takes one of the statins for cholesterol, their CoQ10 can sometimes become depleted, further exacerbating the situation.
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-25-2004, 10:11 AM   #12
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

Quote:
Nords, I did not mean to step on your post, but
seriously, my brain does not comprehend spelling
backwards..... I have to visualize the whole word and
peel the letters off one at a time. *It is really hard for
words like dyslexia. * :)
Me too. Especially for "antidisestablishmentarianism" and "supercalifragilisticxpalidocious".

But I've certainly been a lot more alert (nervous?) the last couple days. Especially since we're seeing the lawyers this afternoon to update the wills...
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-25-2004, 10:19 AM   #13
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

So theres still time to change your name to "bob".

But then you're subject to the littany of "bob" jokes.
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-25-2004, 11:26 AM   #14
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

I have read reports that a lot of CJD cases (and vCJD, nvCJD) are misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's, and as many as 13% of Alzheimer's cases are actually CJD (or some variant)... that's a warm and fuzzy thought. The antibody research for clearing out the plaques is promising, but it would be nice to know what generates those plaques to begin with.

As for spelling.... I'm screwed.
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-25-2004, 12:54 PM   #15
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

Quote:
I have read reports that a lot of CJD cases (and vCJD, nvCJD) are misdiagnosed as Alzheimer's, and as many as 13% of Alzheimer's cases are actually CJD (or some variant)...
Haven't heard that. Should be okay, though, am having "mock hamburger" for lunch.

About a person spelling their first name backward as a test... don't change it to bob, and become the butt (no, the "rump" of jokes ). Instead, change it to "I". Many people use it too much anyway!
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome
Old 08-25-2004, 01:15 PM   #16
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Re: PBS special on Alzheimer's Syndrome

Dad and Pop work for me.

Cheers,

Charlie
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