Managing care for someone with dementia during this pandemic
Dr. Oz shares his struggle to help his mother, who lives in Turkey, has Alzheimer’s disease and was recently diagnosed with COVID-19: “It was devastating when I realized I couldn’t travel home to take care of her. Although she’s on the mend, I’m acutely aware of how overwhelming it is for people with dementia and the people who love them to navigate this unprecedented public health crisis.”
Dementia and the pandemic — a difficult combination! Dementia may increase a person’s risk for COVID-19, because the safety precautions that help prevent infection are more difficult to follow if you have impaired cognitive function. And there’s a double-edged sword: Research shows loneliness can make dementia symptoms worse, and social distancing increases loneliness dramatically.
Dr. Oz suggests that if you’re a family caregiver of someone with AD or dementia, you both will feel better about the challenges posed by the pandemic if you try these techniques.
■ Place signs in the bathroom reminding your loved one to wash his/her hands with soap for 20 seconds.
■ Stay in touch through calls and video conferencing if you do not live near or with the person. You’ll ease isolation and can reinforce the importance of following anti-infection guidelines.
■ Think ahead. If you’re the primary caregiver, make plans for someone to take over for you in case you get sick.
■ If the person with dementia receives home-based services, such as food deliveries or physical therapy, contact the provider to ask about their protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Reverse the trend of rising blood pressure in the U.S.
Barry White was known for his bass-baritone that delivered such low-n-slow ballads as “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe.” Unfortunately, his easygoing style didn’t prevent him from dying from complications of high blood pressure. It’s a risk more and more Americans face every year, despite the push for regular screening and the availability of effective antihypertension medications.
According to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2020 Scientific Sessions with the pessimistic title “Hypertension Control in the U.S. 2009-2018: Rapidly Reversing Years of Progress,” between 1999-2000, around 32 percent of Americans were able to maintain a healthy blood pressure of 140/90mmHg or less (the guidelines that year). By 2013-2014, the number had risen to more than half (54.5 percent). Bravo! But by 2015-2016, there was a 6 percent drop to 48 percent. And, as of 2017-2018, fewer than 44 percent of U.S. adults had a heart-healthy blood pressure.
In 2017, the measure of a healthy blood pressure was lowered from 140/90mmHg to 130/80mmHg, because research shows earlier interventions prevent heart attack and strokes. But we suggest you go lower and aim for 115/75. After all, around half a million folks will die this year from HBP-related causes.
So, sign on to reverse the national trend by adopting three tried-and-true interventions: 1) get 300 minutes of exercise weekly; 2) maintain a healthy weight through a plant-based diet that eliminates highly-processed foods and red meats; and 3) know your numbers and talk to your doc about medication if lifestyle intervention doesn’t help enough.
Think with your heart
Whether you like Chicago blues or ’80s pop music — Luther Allison or Debbie Gibson — there’s a song called “Think with Your Heart” to enjoy. Unfortunately, that advice doesn’t always end well, at least in romantic song lyrics. Nonetheless, research shows you really do think with your heart.
Brain health depends on unobstructed blood flow carrying oxygen, glucose (what brain cells gobble for food) and nutrients. That’s why plaque in your blood vessels, hypertension, high triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels, and elevated hsCRP (an inflammation marker), which affect your heart health, also damage your brain.
Mild cognitive impairment that causes memory lapse, interrupted thought and inattention, is related to those sorts of circulatory problems. The American Academy of Neurology estimates around 8 percent of folks ages 65-69 and 37 percent of people age 85+ have MCI; 10-20 percent of cases progress to full-blown dementia. Fortunately, you can improve your circulatory health and protect your brain.
You know the drill about eating a heart-healthy Mediterranean diet; eliminating processed carbs and red meats. But did you know you can improve circulatory and brain health with these steps?
1. Sleep — not too little (less than seven hours) and not too much (more than eight).
2. Exercise — for mental and social stimulation, improved blood flow to the brain and it may also stimulate release of molecules that repair brain cells and create connections between them.
3. Learn new things. Take a language course, take up knitting.
4. Do ’em all. Research shows the more the merrier — and cognitively alert — you’ll be.
How to talk yourself into better food choices
“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me?” That’s what Robert De Niro’s character Travis Bickle in “Taxi Driver” asks while standing in an empty room. Now, that may have been a sure sign that young Travis was unraveling, but in 2020, we know if you talk to yourself — and pay attention — it can have positive benefits.
Researchers from the University of Michigan recently found that talking to yourself in the third person about your food choices is an effective way to upgrade your nutrition, watch your weight and achieve a younger RealAge. Their study in the journal Clinical Psychological Science says you’ll be able to resist temptation and opt for healthier food if you act as if you’re observing the eating habits of someone else. For example, you might say, “Oh, he really shouldn’t eat fried foods,” or “I think ___ (fill in the blank with your name) should have a salad for lunch.”
Although 93 percent of you say you want to eat healthy foods at least some of the time, around 75 percent of people in the U.S. don’t get the minimum amounts of vegetables, fruits and whole grains needed to stay healthy. Clearly, it’s difficult to make good food choices.
So talking to yourself is worth a try — and here are three more smart steps that may make it easier to stick to your goal. 1) Eat at your desk for lunch? Don’t do it anymore. 2) Eat standing up? Ban that. 3) Eat watching TV? Turn it off.
Cardio rehab is best done with your partner
“Mike & Molly” was a sitcom about a couple who fell in love after meeting at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting. Throughout the series, they supported each other’s commitment to get their health on track. But when out of view of one another, they each tended to cheat on their commitment to lose weight.
New research presented at the European Society of Cardiology’s annual conference backs up the notion that trying to lose weight on your own isn’t the most effective way to achieve success.
The study focused on 411 heart attack survivors who were referred to lifestyle modification programs. Their partners were permitted to join the programs for free — and half did just that. Lo and behold, the patients whose partners also committed to becoming healthier were more than twice as likely to achieve weight loss goals and other lifestyle modifications (exercising and stopping smoking) as folks who participated solo.
If your loved one is going through cardio rehab, adopting a healthier lifestyle will help him or her reclaim better health. Besides, chances are you could also use a tuneup. Another study looked at over 86,000 married couples and found when men have hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, their wives are likely to have the same issues.
So, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with cardiovascular problems, you’re at risk if your partner has been. But, if you tune in to the power of love and support while you upgrade your lifestyles, you’ll both be looking ahead to a younger, happier RealAge together.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.