I recently learned that I carry a gene for early onset Alzheimer’s. While this was startling news, it wasn’t devastating as I know that it is not a diagnosis, simply knowledge that my chances of having this disease are slightly greater than that of the general population.
I am also a firm believer that knowledge is power. So I now take a lot of high quality fish oil, eat lots of veggies, and exercise more frequently. All this is healthy for my body and my brain so it’s all good. Pretty much.
The problem with this knowledge is that life is life. I have always had a great memory but, since experiencing menopause, it isn’t as good as it used to be. I’ve been told that my mind will be back to normal as hormones balance out, but in the mean time I’ve become frustrated that words on the tip of my tongue tend to stay there. I find myself walking into a room and hoping, if I stay there long enough, I’ll remember what I came in there for. Schedules have to be written down rather than live in my head. With the new health information, I now wonder if a brain blip is caused by hormone fluctuations or something more serious. I know, deep down, that I’m fine but at the same time there is this little extra worry that wears me down.
In an effort to improve overall brain-related stuff, I decided to try Lumosity – a website with games designed to increase mental functions. My initial test was rather embarrassing and I ranked really, really low compared to others on the site within my age group. I reminded myself that this was the point, to know where I am and to get better.
I’ve been on the site for almost three months now and I have shown great improvement in every category, except one: problem solving. I find this odd as I have always thought of myself as a great problem solver. When I review my rankings against others in my group, I am in the 73rd to 86th percentiles with comments like “You’re doing well” and “You’re a force to be reckoned with!” Then we get to problem solving. I haven’t broken the 37th percentile. Seriously. The comment there is: Keep trying.
I am trying. I blame my poor score on a game where you’re packing a suitcase and can’t let the camera get squished when the bag closes. My camera is always getting squished. It’s the only game that I haven’t moved up a single level in 3 months. You’d think by now I’d get it right. How hard could this be? Apparently, for me, really, really hard. So now, in addition to having this Alzheimer’s issue hanging over my head, I am on a mission to pack that stupid camera in the dang suitcase without breaking it.
On the plus side, my general memory processes have improved. I don’t stumble for words as much as I had in recent months and, overall, things seem to be getting back to normal. My profile says that people with my scores are often in art and design. Hmmm. Maybe what I’ve considered good problem solving skills all these years was really just a type of creativity.
I consider myself lucky to live in a time when genetic information is available. Rather than focus on what might be, I use this information to support my physical and mental health. By changing my lifestyle, I increase my odds of avoiding Alzheimer’s. And maybe I’ll get that camera packed without squishing it.
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