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The Alzheimer's Risk
Mom with a View

The Alzheimer's Risk

Relinquishing our illusion of control.


"Lifestyle Changes Can Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s" reads the headline. Apparently, “a new, theoretical analysis finds that about half of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s are potentially changeable…” Some of these factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, sedentary behavior, depression and low educational level.   

That’s amazing news.  Alzheimer’s is a horrific and terrifying disease.  There are really no words to adequately describe watching a loved one battle its onset – or live without their faculties.   

My father passed away a few months ago from Alzheimer-related complications.  So this study seems like an unbelievable breakthrough, a stunning relief.  We can make lifestyle choices that will prevent our developing Alzheimer’s.  Fantastic. 

But wait, the article cautions: “In reality, the causes of Alzheimer’s are still unclear, and it hasn’t been proven that stopping smoking, for example, actually lowers one’s risk of getting dementia.”  The information is not as straightforward as it seems.  We don’t have as much control as we thought. 

And that, I think, is the point.  Even if we do find a cure for Alzheimer’s, another illness will pop up.  For all our progress and our research and our solutions, there seems to always be a new disease on the horizon.   

And I think there always will be.  Because I believe, based on no evidence or source whatsoever, that disease is a message to us.  I think we are being told, “You are not in control.”  Of course we have to do our part; we have to make our effort. If exercise helps, we should exercise.  If diet helps, we should watch what we eat (everything in moderation including chocolate and ice cream is a good rule!)  We should take reasonable precautions. That's our responsibility.  

But nothing we do is a guarantee.  Nothing is a panacea.  Nothing is magic.  This ensures that we never lose sight of the fact that the Almighty is in charge. 

We have a very strong desire to be in control.  We turn to the latest exercise (is it Pilates or spinning or Zumba?) or diet (is it South Beach or Atkins or flaxseed?). We enroll in the latest life goals seminar or visit the most highly priced physician.  All in search of that elusive key to immortality. We convince ourselves that if we follow a certain regimen no harm will ever come to us.  We even become superstitious in our desperate desire to assert control. 

This attitude makes the drop that much farther down, the landing that much more difficult when life hands us its inevitable challenges.  It leaves us bewildered and devastated when, despite our best efforts, disease strikes. And it leaves us with none of the tools necessary for fighting back. 

We are much better off if we relinquish our illusion of control.  Staying awake the whole flight will not make you the pilot.  We need to accept that everything is in the Almighty’s hands. It is actually in our best interests to turn to Him for comfort, for reassurance and for perspective. 

Disease obviously has specific lessons to impart to the individual who contracts it and to their loved ones.  But it also has a general message for the rest of us.  Of course we need to work for cures, it’s a noble goal – but I think it’s unlikely we will every fully eradicate sickness until we learn the lesson of Who’s really in charge.  Perhaps if and when we do, we will be able to truly rejoice over these newspaper headlines.

July 24, 2011

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Visitor Comments: 19

(17) Anonymous, October 31, 2011 10:25 PM

My condolences to you on the loss of your father from this devastating disease. I also lost my father to Alzheimer's a year and a half ago. It is truly a horrific way to live out the end of one's life. I pray we find a cure for this disease. Will there be other diseases on the horizon? I suspect there will be. However, we can't let ourselves become overwhelmed by the unknown. Working intelligently to eradicate this and other known diseases is the only thing we can do.

(16) Anonymous, July 30, 2011 4:33 PM

Pity for Alzheimer victims

I agree with the article. I would to add that we should not judge Alzheimer victims by our standards of "normality". The victim is living in his/her world and may be perfectly content in that world. It is we -- the patients relatives-- who suffer in trying to provide the care needed by our loved ones.

(15) SusanE, July 30, 2011 3:45 PM

Disease isn't always a Personal Choice.

The contributing factors mentioned in the first paragraph of the article shouldn't be thought of as a personal contributer to Alzheimers. They are a condition of living in an unbalanced and toxic society. Even without those factors one can digress into the tragedy that is Alzheimers by simply living in the polluted physical world today. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Hundreds of thousands of people become ill and die each year simply from drinking water. Hundreds of thousands die from AIDS, TB, viruses, malaria, accidents, heart disease, hundreds of thousands die from every form of Cancer. Dementia used to be fairly rare in older people, now dementia and Alzheimers both are quite common. ~~~~~~~~~ Changing your own lifestyle by not being fat, and not smoking and lowering B/P and eating organic and not drinking etc. is no promise you won't become ill. Changing society so these habits and indulgences and poor choices aren't so common, could help in the overall health of a society. ~~~~ I don't have control over U.S. pesticide use, or what is put into paint, or what is emitting from the powerstation down the road. I do have control over what I put into my body and what I do with my time. I can only protest against what I consider toxic for my society. ~~~~~~~~~~ One commenter said we are all going to die. I agree because That is a Fact. I agree with what Deena wrote. If we were all more responsible we could change society and perhaps G-d would see to it that we could all live longer healthier lives. The way it is going, if Western medicine keeps us alive long enough, we will get ill with one or more of these diseases before we die. That also is a fact.

(14) rivka malka, July 29, 2011 1:21 AM

great line!

I also loved that line - amazing! "staying awake the whole flight wont make you th epilot"

(13) SBNaturally, July 28, 2011 6:59 AM

What If There Was a Cure for Alzheimer's Disease... and No One Knew?

For those with family who suffer with alzeimhers, I would suggest you read that article on I've encountered many folks and families with Alzheimer and Parkinson that have no idea what a healthy diet is. I'm a local co-chapter leader of the nonprofit Weston A. Price Foundation the teach about food, farming and healing arts and suggest that you read and glean many valuable insights on their website (

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