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Medical Experts Offer Information on Alzheimers

Crossword puzzles, blueberries and salmon were among the list of suggestions from members of the memory and mental acuity panel formed for the Braddock District town meeting at the Little River Glen Senior Center, Wednesday, Feb. 6.

Supervisor Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) enlisted the help of Dr. Rob Shumaker from the Krasnow Institute, George Mason University; Dr. David Gebara, psychiatrist; Betty Ransom from the Alzheimer's Association; and Lin Noyes, Ph.D., from the Alzheimer's Family Day Center, to participate in the discussion.

Dr. David Gebrara opened up with a joke about the speech he forgot, which got a big laugh from the audience. Then he borrowed an idea from "Catch 22," with the idea that if a person thinks he has a memory problem, he probably doesn't. It's the ones who don't know they have a problem that are the greatest cause for concern.

"The worst case is when someone is brought in and doesn't know why he’s there," he said.

Betty Ransom tried to motivate the seniors, stressing that apathy contributes to a downward spiral and enables the disease and deterioration to set in.

"It's time to get off your apathy agendas, be active. Our memory is sort of like an athlete," she said.

<mh>Dietary Suggestions

<bt>The blueberries and omega-3 fatty acids, which are in salmon, were introduced by Dr. Lyn Noyes. She offered hope.

"Eighty percent of us in this room can expect to live out our lives without cognitive help. There are at least 140 diseases that can cause memory problems. Don't assume the worst," she said.

A 10-year plan was part of Noyes’ suggestions, as were exercise, sharpening the senses and humor.

"What are you going to do with that time you have?" she said.

When the panelists opened the floor for questions, Supervisor Bulova started off with a question about over-the-counter remedies, such as ginko. Gebera shot down the positive side of that particular remedy.

"Just recently there was a study, and it does not help," he said.

High doses of vitamin E were not recommended either despite rumors some had heard that it was good for the brain.

The heredity link was also asked about.

"The genetic link is less clear, you have a greater risk if you have a sibling [with Alzheimer’s]," Ransom said.

<mh>Symptoms

<bt>Someone asked, "How do you know if you're getting Alzheimer's?"

Although there is no particular test for the disease, Noyes suggested an overall approach.

"You have to look at a constellation of things that affect your daily life," she said.

Inability to remember a name came up several times.

"I have a friend that has that problem, and it's getting worse," said one woman.

Ransom noted the severity of a problem such as that, and Noyes gave a suggestion.

"That's a symptom that probably needs more investigation," she said.

Puzzles, reading and other brain exercises were recommended. In the lobby outside the auditorium at the Center, resident Ernie Strawderman was working on a jigsaw puzzle. He had completed the perimeter, and the picture was starting to take shape.

"We have done a lot of puzzles and stuff here. They say puzzles are really good, it really helps your brain," he said.

Fellow resident Saundra Kovell was eyeing the puzzle from afar, not getting committed, but putting a piece here and a piece there.

"We have a stack of puzzles. It tends to get your mind off things," she said.

Ransom does many lectures on Alzheimer's and notices the seniors aren't the only ones interested in the symptoms and medical progress in that direction. She goes to universities and schools as well.

"When we go down to one of the government centers, we get half [who are] concerned about themselves’ aging and the other half about their parents," she said.