September 22, 2014

Lower Blood Sugar = Better Memory Prospects

The lower your blood sugar, the less likely you are to develop memory problems. Even for healthy adults without glucose issues or diabetes, memory function increases as blood sugar levels decrease.

Those conclusions were published in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal Neurology.

On a less-is-more kick for some time now, I ditched the blood pressure meds months ago and then my statin meds for cholesterol just last week. Now, though my blood glucose numbers are pretty good, I’ll do my best to reinforce sugar’s place on my less-is-more list. (Clarification: As I'll report in a new post, I've gone  back to taking a blood pressure med now but to address a specific problem.)

With her team, Dr. Agnes Flöel from Charité University Medicine in Berlin, Germany, gathered 141 people who did not have diabetes or pre-diabetes (also called impaired glucose tolerance). These subjects – average age 63 – were not overweight, did not drink more than three-and-a-half servings of alcohol per day, and did not demonstrate any memory or cognitive impairment.

September 19, 2014

Here's an Example of How I Prefer Communicating with My Doctors

Not too long ago about the only way to communicate with your doctor was to call the doctor's office and make an appointment for a face-to-face meeting . . . or if it's more urgent "call 911" as the recorded message often tells you.

By working your way through a phone tree that seems endless, you might be able to leave a recorded message asking your doctor to call you.

But today a relatively small but increasing number of doctors will permit you to communicate by email. Usually this is done by giving you the email address of the doctor's assistant. Given the onerous amount of paperwork doctors are burdened with these days, it's understandable that most would not want to open the flood gates to direct one-on-one emails. But I have one on my team   with whom I'm able to exchange emails.

In communicating matters of substance that require clarity and accuracy, I know I'm better off using e written  communication rather than oral.

Here's an email I sent out Thursday to my neurologist and  the doctor who handles my blood pressure issues. It provides an example of how an email can provide important information completely and accurately and frees the doctor of the need to take notes.    It also provides an update on my No. health concern these days -- the erratic ups and downs in my blood pressure readings that I discussed last week.

Email Regarding Erratic Blood Pressure Readings
A week ago the two of you had given me these recommendations (Nos. 1 and 3 from Dr. B and No.2 from Dr. M.
  1. See if the peaks and valleys in the bp readings would be smoothed by  taking less carbidopa/levodopa at more frequent intervals, i.e. 1.5 tablets every 2.5 hours
  2. Try a low dose (10mg) of the bp medication nifedipine.
  3. Try a low dose of the Parkinson's disease (PD) medication dopamine agonist.
I decided to do a trial of each in turn starting with the pill-free option #1. But I also obtained a prescription for nifedipine.

Here's what's happened so far:
The first couple of days were much like what had gone before -- the peaks (above 150 systolic ) were the primary problem with a few lows (below 100). The peaks happened almost exclusively during carbidopa/levodopa off periods. The lows were more erratic.

I was mistaken in initially labeling the lows as orthostatic hypotension; they have no connection with moving from a seated to standing position. And I also was mistaken in thinking they only occurred in midday outings in hot humid weather.

Things began to change on Tuesday. I was getting readings above 150  on over half of the off periods. I decided late afternoon to begin taking the nifedipine.

Yesterday was a bummer. I got readings of 104/60 during my 3-4 a.m. quiet hour and the readings continued to drop. When the number hit 80/47 at  8 a.m., I decided I'd better take some salt.  I was so shaky that I had to prop myself up by hanging on to the walls in going to the kitchen. By 9 a.m. the reading was back up to 126/69.

The readings continued OK until 4 p.m. when it dropped to 89/52, but unlike the a.m. lows, I was feeling fine. 

Here's today thus far:

2:30 -- woke just to take c/l pill and go back to bed -- 152/79.
4:30 -- 116/62
Did my floor exercises
5:00 -- 91/49 and time for  my c/l pill.
I was feeling very wobbly but this time I was ready and had a salt container in my bedroom. I poured out a little, stuck a wetted finger in the pile of salt and then licked the finger. I had another low reading and did the salt routine again. The systolic number began to go up and by 6:30 the reading was 111/58.

I just now (1:30) took a reading --136/78.

Actually except for the 4 a.m. and p.m episodes, I'm feeling better than ever.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?

I almost forgot: I may have complicated things by deciding two days ago to stop taking my statin. This was bad timing that unnecessarily tosses another issue into the pot.

So what do we do now?  I wouldn't mind continuing down this path through the weekend and check back with you on Monday.

Let me know.

P.S. Dr. M. -- As you predicted , I did tinker around a bit with 5-HTP at the start but I gave up on that and am limiting myself to  25 mg at bedtime.

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September 18, 2014

Bye-Bye to My Statins

I believe that "less is more." Back in April, I ditched my blood pressure pills. This weeks it's the statins I've been taking for decades to treat my elevated blood pressure. 

Here's what lead to that decision:

Are Statins Worth the Risk?
That question is increasingly being asked by doctors and medical authorities. Statins are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the U.S. They are taken by an estimated 1 in 4 middle-aged adults.

They may become even more widely used. New cholesterol guidelines, introduced last November, could push that ratio to as many as 1 in 2 adults over age 40.

But for several years now there has been a simmering debate in medicine over statins."The prevailing dogma has been this statins are almost harmless and that they're a wonderful drug," says Tom Perry, MD, a pharmacologist and internist in Vancouver Canada. Caray is part of a team of doctors at the University of British Columbia that looks at the evidence for and against drugs.

September 17, 2014

Harvard Outlines Looming Housing Crisis for Seniors

On September 2, 2014, the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies & AARP Foundation released the results of a study that reports some troubling news: The USA faces a lack of affordable, physically accessible housing for seniors, particularly those with limited resources.

It’s a perfect storm in the making, as Baby Boomers – the nation’s largest-ever generation – speed into their senior years. They’re living longer, too, than any generation before them.

By 2030, 20 percent of all Americans will be 65+. By 2040, there will be an astonishing 28 million Americans 80+. That’s a lot of seniors.

“If things don’t change, low-income older people will be compromising their well-being in many respects. It’s an issue that will affect us all,” said Chris Herbert, acting managing director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.

The study highlighted three particular issues.

1) The Cost of Renting or Owning a Home is Already High
Yes, housing costs are very high, and they will only increase. For millions of seniors, especially those on fixed incomes, just keeping pace with those rising costs isn't possible.

About 33% of Americans 50+ – and 37 percent of those 80+ – spend one third of their income on housing. That leaves little for all the other necessities, especially the most expensive ones – food and healthcare.

Seniors 80+ in financially-strapped households spend 59 percent less on healthcare every month than their counterparts who are fortunate enough to have affordable housing.

September 16, 2014

Treating Depression: Curcumin is Equal to Prosac and Better than Placebo

I continue to see positive reports about curcumin, the active ingredient in the Indian curry spice turmeric. This week, an Australian study reported that the supplement might relieve symptoms of major depression better than a placebo. 

First, to set the stage, here's a brief video about a 2013 study that compared curcumin to Prozac: 

Dr. Ajay Goel is director of epigenetics and cancer prevention at the Gastrointestinal Cancer Research Lab at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. He is now researching the prevention of gastrointestinal cancers using integrative and alternative approaches, including botanical products.