Dealing with the Fear of Getting Alzheimer’s

One of the most feared medical conditions of modern times is Alzheimer’s.  More Americans fear getting Alzheimer’s than they are of getting cancer, which is potentially lethal.  Perhaps one of the reasons it’s so feared is because we know so little about it.  However, we do know that getting Alzheimer’s is not a death sentence.

And yet, it never fails.  If you can’t find your keys or can’t remember the name of a relative, someone is bound to quip, “That’s the first sign of Alzheimer’s, you know,” and a feeling of cold dread grips your stomach. We don’t know much about getting Alzheimer’s, but we do know a lot about fear.  How can we deal with the very real fear of Alzheimer’s?

Don’t Feed Your Demons

There’s an old saying in Asian myths that when you meet your enemy, you should give them food and they become your friend.  Although it may seem strange to devote time to learning about what makes you scared, you should still do so.  Oftentimes, what we really fear is the unknown.  With Alzheimer’s, the amount of suffering that the patient goes through in the later stages is unknown.  But you can watch videos or talk with people who are lucid enough in the early stages.  They can tell you that it’s not so bad, really.

Alzheimer’s almost like a little death, since part of your personality is affected.  It’s definitely a big change.  If you are too nervous to find out about Alzheimer’s, then look up stuff about death or how to cope with change.  Reading about Alzheimer’s will seem like nothing after that.

Play Word Games

Another way to deal with the fear of getting Alzheimer’s is to play word games such as code crackers, anagrams, word searches or crossword puzzles.  This helps keep the memory’s muscles limber, according to a 2005 study.

I would think that being able to follow a soap opera or a science fiction series like Babylon 5 or Star Trek: The Next Generation would also be able to help keep your memory limber, as there are a lot of details to keep organized, but this wasn’t specifically mentioned in the study.

Diet and Exercise

Fear of getting Alzheimer’s may wind up being good for you.  If that’s what it takes to get you to eat a sensible, varied diet and to exercise regularly, then use your fear to get yourself in gear.  Studies like this one from 2008 show that a sensible diet and regular exercise can help prevent Alzheimer’s.

The reason for this is that Alzheimer’s may be a form of diabetes because the brain produces insulin.  Diet and exercise can help prevent diabetes type 2 (and heart disease, for that matter) and can also greatly reduce your risk of getting Alzheimer’s.


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