I never realised just how much I take my seemingly sane mind for granted until recently. I’ve jumped right into what I wanted to say, without much of an introduction and little grace and transience, I know. But I’m going to let it be. I’m not going to backspace all that I’ve written so far because this is exactly what I want to show you all. How my mind works. How my thoughts roll along, one after the other. Fluid yet messy. Mostly inter-linked and legible.
I’m at my grandparents’ house. My grandmother, sister and mother have stepped out to visit a relative. I’m at home studying for my last set of exams, along with my grandfather. Today, my grandfather, an alzheimer’s patient, asked me where Radha aunty was. Radha is my grandmother’s name. He’d mistaken me for a niece. I have to say, I was a little shocked. I know he’s had this disease for a few years now and his memory isn’t very good; he calls my mum, aunt, sister and I, “molu“, a Malayali term of endearment for a young girl. He always has. And so far, I had taken it to mean that he had an inkling as to who we were; maybe he couldn’t remember our names or our birthdays, but he knew who we were to him. Now I realise that he doesn’t, really.
He always says he knows who we are though.
My family has had a few scares now and then when my grandfather has wandered off, but we have been lucky enough to have had some kind stranger stop him on his tracks to ask him if he’s alright, and on learning that he’s lost or confused, taken him into their house and called the police. Two incidents alike these were more than one could ask for.
Even with all this, the scariest thing about it all is what’s going on inside his head.
Your mind is your most valuable possession. Do what you can to take the best care of it.
- Treat yourself to apples, berries and coffee. They boost circulation in your brain, stimulating neurotransmitters and blocking Alzheimer’s brain toxins. Dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa is good for lowering blood pressure and inhibiting stroke damage. It goes without saying (and yet I will) that maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is the very LEAST that one can do to stave off health problems.
- It’s important to stay mentally active. Of course, a lot of people know this but don’t really understand what this means. It’s simple really. It means hanging out with friends, reconnecting with the family, playing sports, reading – things that most people do everyday, and yet never realise how important it is to continue doing it. If you’re the more adventurous type, do things like learning a new language, volunteering, playing a musical instrument or even video games. Use your actions to prevent Alzheimer’s as an excuse to try out and experience new things.
- Exercise. It reduces stress, increases your energy, and boosts your mood. Not only will exercising lead to a healthy mind, but you may even end up with a beach bod that is the pinnacle of envy.
- Get routine medical check ups. Blood pressure needs to be monitored and controlled regularly.
- Sleep well. Have a regular sleep schedule and try to stick to it. Napping is good but be smart about it. If insomnia is a problem for you, don’t nap – it’ll only make it worse. A relaxing bedtime ritual, such as doing some light stretches, taking a hot bath or writing in your diary before bed, is good for the brain too.
I’ll end this list with the obvious, which doesn’t just apply to Alzheimer’s prevention: drink alcohol in moderation and stop smoking.
A simple change in lifestyle can reduce one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Do your best to reduce this risk.
He still calls us ‘molu’.