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Work to increase your brain power as you grow older


Sometimes my facial muscles are affected, in that they don't function "automatically" as they did at one time (neurologists call this "facial masking"). Unless I remember to tell myself to "smile," it may appear that I am uninterested or in a bad mood. When I have the opportunity, I explain my situation to those interested, telling them that I still enjoy taking part in conversations. Also, I say that I have chosen to smile on the inside.

Because of side effects to medication, and progression of the physical components of this disorder, after considerable investigation and thought, I elected to undergo a procedure called "deep brain stimulation" last March. It is a two-stage surgical procedure (details are easy to find by searching for "deep brain stimulation" on the Internet).

At first I thought I had made a poor choice, as I had a rough rehabilitation period (one physician labeled me as cachectic; I dropped to 128 pounds). These events were confounded by iatrogenic factors, leading to complete obstruction of my urethra for approximately 16 hours (I can now truly empathize with male dogs and cats with urethral obstruction), followed by the need for an indwelling catheter (ugh!) and transurethral prostatectomy. (Sometime I will have to tell you about my hospital escapade due to a sleep medication.) However, I gradually recovered, aided by the fact that I came to detest daytime TV and by the fact that I passionately missed being a participant in teaching and research.

In May, I returned to full-time effort at the Veterinary Medical Center. How fortunate I am to have the opportunity to be involved with helping others. I can think of no other mission that gives one such a feeling of worth and satisfaction. Let me state it this way: I have the privilege of going to work each day; I don't have to go to work each day.

You may be wondering why I have chosen to pen a Diagnote about my encounter with Parkinson's disease. The reason is to share some information I think you will find valuable.

Some of you may know that some PPs have varying degrees of dementia. I have chosen not to be counted among them. However, I want to do everything I can to minimize any form of dementia, since in order to "first do no harm" to my patients, to my students and to my colleagues, I need to maintain and even increase my cognitive skills.

You might be asking, "How can you choose not to develop dementia?" Read on. Mozart's brain and the fighter pilot are coming to the rescue.

For reasons too numerous for me to share with you in this Diagnote, it is vital that PPs maintain an upbeat, optimistic and pleasant outlook. Helping others often makes it difficult for me to dwell on my own problems. This is sometimes referred to as the "helpers high" (please see the article titled, "Join the 51% club. Benefit from the helper's high." DVM Newsmagazine 33, No.9, p. 20-21, Sept., 2002).

In addition, there is much evidence that, no matter how old we are or whether our brains are healthy or sick, there is great power in positive thinking. However, there can also be great power in negative thinking.

According to Richard Restak M.D., a neuropsychiatrist and author of the book, Mozart's Brain and the Fighter Pilot, positron emission tomography (PET) studies indicate that persons who think sad thoughts versus happy thoughts can change their brain chemistry. I am sure that many readers of DVM Newsmagazine have experienced the physical symptoms associated with anger.

Likewise, if you have a strong conviction that a certain drug will be of benefit to you, that benefit often occurs even though you were given a placebo. Restak provides compelling evidence that it is never too late to change your brain for the better. To a large degree, the amount of benefit that occurs is dependent upon us.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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