Dr. James C. Spaulding

Chiropractor - Edinboro, Pa.

Instrument Adjusting Certified
106 Waterford Street • Edinboro Pa 16412 • Send E-Mail
Phone: (814) 734-3422
"Who Are You Again?" - Aging and Dementia

Shortly after my mother-in-law came to live with us she began to show serious signs of memory loss. At 87 she was strong and seemingly healthy otherwise, but we began to get worried when she was starting to get her days and nights mixed up. At night she got up, dressed for Sunday church, and in the dark, fell down the stairs, fracturing several facial bones.

As so often is the case, while rehabilitating in a nursing home, she took a turn for the worse, and died within a year. This, I believe, is the scenario we all fear.

Did she have Alzheimer’s? There was no formal diagnosis of that, but dementia was the word bandied about. Technically, Alzheimer’s is a disease; dementia one symptom of that disease. Evidently there are many forms of dementia, but some of us are more at risk for early dementia than others.

In the months before my mother-in-law died, and before she completely lost her identity, she progressively lost her memory of her life and family. Once when I was there to visit her she greeted me warmly and we talked about her grandchildren who she loved dearly. During a lull in the conversation she looked at me and asked, “Who are you again?” This is what dementia does too many of us eventually. Is there nothing that can be done about this apparent eventuality? This is the $60,000 Question (I am dating myself, and if you know what I mean you’re old too!)

Age, like the proverbial steamroller, runs roughshod over all of us. Dementia is the result of damage, over time, to brain tissue, and seems to be a part of the debris left in its path. We can, and must then, try to slow the processes that tend to accelerate the aging of our body’s tissue. So what are these nefarious processes? I’ve maintained for some time that health and vitality is a matter of what we eat and how we move. Where brain tissue is concerned, I’d like to add how we think as also crucial.

Let’s talk about what we know for sure. First, concerning what we eat:

  • Sugar. Avoid it like the plague. Sugar is a provocateur, an agent of premature aging, primarily through the process of glycation. Glycation damages every kind of tissue in our bodies. Sugar also makes us fat, especially in the worst places like around our middles.

  • Flour. I sense some resistance out there (much like Luke Skywalker sensed the dark side of the force in the movie Star Wars.) See, here’s the thing. Flour is predominately a carbohydrate, and carbohydrates are quickly converted by the digestive system to glucose…sugar, and thus promote the process of glycation. Wheat is the main culprit, and wheat is in everything. Sorry, I’m just the messenger. Read my book reviews of Wheat Belly, and Why We Get Fat for more information on this.

  • Fried and deep-fried foods. Frying (browning) causes the food being fried to glycate. (If you really want to super-charge this process, deep-fry a twinkie.)
    • Alcohol. Alcohol in excess destroys brain cells and promotes premature aging, in every way. To be fair there is research that suggests some alcohol in moderation may actually a net positive.

There are surely others, but by avoiding these things we will automatically lose fat, particularly the belly-fat that is so dangerous, as well as put the brakes on tissue-aging.

Much more could, and has been, said on this subject, but this is just an article, not a book, and we must move on. The second thing that can deeply affect how we age is how we move. Two types of exercise are necessary to help stem the tide of aging tissue:

  • Resistance training exercises. As we grow older we naturally tend to lose lean muscle mass, a process called Sarcopenia. Muscle tissue is important for maintaining a proper metabolism. As we lose it, it is replaced by adipose tissue (fat.) Resistance exercise can help to conserve and even add lean muscle mass to our bodies, while helping to burn fat.

  • Interval training. Interval training is the cardio portion of the exercise necessary to stay healthy and vital. This is a form of exercise that can be done on a stationary bike, a treadmill, or an elliptical machine. It strengthens the vascular and respiratory systems (heart and lungs,) and increases stamina.

If you would be interested in learning more about these types of exercise, and my personal exercise program for baby-boomers and other seniors go here.

Finally, the aging of our brain tissue can be affected by what we think. The field of science associated with slowing aging and improving the function of our brains is young, but growing. Consider the following at least:

  • Stress. Mental and emotional stress is a killer of brain cells. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but not much. Worry and anxiety can bring us down and make us sick. Learn to love life at every stage of your life. Resolve (it really does take resolve) to engage your mind in the positive aspects of life, and try not to dwell on the negative things, especially the things you cannot change.

  • Exercise your brain. There is plenty you can do in this regard. Read about or tune in on TV programs that explore things that interest you; engage in stimulating conversation; do your favorite kind of puzzles. Don’t let your mind, or your body, vegetate.

Dr. Jim Spaulding is a full-time practicing chiropractor of 37 years. He has written numerous articles on the subject of diet and exercise.

© 2013 Dr James C. Spaulding. All Rights Reserved.