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Why Aren’t We Talking About the Cognitive Health Crisis?

01/11/2018

Mark Sisson – marksdailyapple.com

If you look at the latest stats, you might assume there’s no cognitive health crisis. The overall number of dementia cases are going up, but that’s because the aging population is growing. Older folks are living longer than ever before, so there are more people around who can develop dementia. Dementia and Alzheimer’s rates are dropping in the Western world. Politicians, those archetypical paragons of cognitive aptitude, are hanging around in office longer than ever. Technology, science, and other fields that require large amounts of cognitive ability are progressing.

But broad trends and large numbers are just statistics. However reassuring they are to public policy analysts, they mean nothing to the individual suffering from cognitive decline. They’re too abstract. Your grandpa no longer knowing who you are? That’s real. You, personally, don’t want to lose your cognitive abilities as you age. You, personally, don’t want to see the people you love get Alzheimer’s. Individual cases matter to those individuals and their loved ones. And it’s still happening more than it should.

Maybe more than any other disease, severe cognitive impairments have the potential to unravel families. They’re not one and done. They drag on. They aren’t “lethal” in the normal sense. People with Alzheimer’s can lead long lives, the latter halves of which can get very difficult for everyone involved. There’s an entire body of literature devoted to studying the effects of Alzheimer’s on families and caregivers and discovering effective methods for mitigating the damage done. You don’t get that so much with other diseases.

Yet for whatever reason, Alzheimer’s doesn’t get enough attention. Sure, it’s mentioned. People are aware it exists. They can probably name the general symptoms. But it doesn’t seem as pressing a concern as something like cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.

One reason is that cognitive diseases are really scary to consider. 

Most other diseases affect what we consider to be the peripheral tissues. Heart disease is about the heart. Kidney disease affects the kidneys. Cancer can strike anywhere, but it’s usually in an organ or bone. Most diseases leave our personhood intact. We’re still us, even when we’re riddled with tumors or on dialysis. But with something like Alzheimer’s, we disappear. We forget who we are. We forget where we live, how old we are, and the name of that stranger hovering over us with a concerned look on her face. People define themselves by their intellect; our superior mind is what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. When that goes, what’s left? No one wants to think about that.

Read the full article – marksdailyapple.com


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