Friday, October 17, 2014

Depends on Your Perspective

Often, what we get out of life depends on how we look at things. These last few weeks of rain began to get on my nerves. The grass is growing and the tree that came down in the storm needs to be hauled off. Except the yard is soggy from all the rain, so it all has to wait. This both gets on my nerves, and also is simultaneously a relief. I can use the time to work on my projects.

While I shivered in the blustery wind and cold rain as I took the dog out for her morning constitutional, I couldn’t see much good in the weather. I turned on my computer and my brother Tommy had posted: “Been shelling chestnuts this morning, now in the lanai enjoying the cool air and a hot cup of coffee.”  The accompanying photo was peaceful, beautiful, and gave me a new perspective of the incessant rain.

I drove through town yesterday and saw that gas had dropped to $2.83. All of a sudden, I noticed my tank was half empty. As I pumped the gas, I realized that when gas was reaching new highs, I’d have considered my tank half full and would have passed up the gas station. It’s all in how you look at things.

When I drove into Walmart’s parking lot, I noticed my car thermometer showed sixty-six degrees. The sun was shining brightly so I left my jacket in the car. As I walked toward the door, I noticed a cold breeze and pulled my thin sweater a little closer. I noticed that people’s different perspectives of this autumn day varied from a woman wearing a winter coat to a man clad T-shirt and shorts pushing a cart. They all seemed more comfortable than I did considering that I was dressed more appropriately for the weather than either of them.

Perspective affects our big decisions in life as well as how we react to the small moments that make up our day. As we plug along from day to day, we can lose sight of the possibility that the rug can figuratively be pulled out from beneath our feet and we fall flat on our keister. What happens then depends on us. We can sit on the floor and cry from the pain, or we can stand up and keep moving forward.

We’ve all seen it, haven’t we? Those amazing people who choose to refuse to stay down, but instead continue to live life to the fullest. When life looks the bleakest, they focus on the thin ray of sunshine that breaks through the gloomy haze.

As my niece, Angie, explained it: clarity. From the moment, she found out that she had colon cancer, she knew she was terminal. Taking what time she had left, she experienced her dream wedding and spent quality time with her family, sharing her radiant smile, love, and hugs.

She shared her thoughts, hopes, happiness, on Facebook. On November 23, 2012, she wrote:  I think we all know what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful I’m still alive. Alive, to love my family. Another day to see Reiana smile, hear Madison’s laugh and see Connor’s beautiful eyes. And most of all to hear my hubby tell what “he thinks” are funny jokes. BTW, God, thank you for bringing my brother back to me. Occasionally, she spoke of her regrets, sorrow, and fears, but by far her words reflected her positive perspective on life. She died on December 11, 2012 a short time after her thirty-ninth birthday.

Alzheimer’s is another disease that can challenge a positive attitude. It is a disease without a cure or effective treatment and the only prognosis is death. Upon diagnosis, death isn’t normally immanent, which makes it more difficult to see the urgency of seizing each moment of joy. The care partner may be facing ten to twenty years of watching a disease rob a loved one of his or her memory, communication ability, skills, and talents. Yet, if you consider the expanse of time, it would be foolish to allow this disease to steal your happiness.

When Jim was in the early stages of dementia we were able to travel, spend time with family and friends. We shared many happy moments and good times. It was a bleak diagnosis, but life went on for ten more years. Even during the final stages, I loaded Jim into the van for trips to Dairy Queen or to take a walk in the park. When he couldn’t walk anymore, I wheeled him around the nursing home or parking lot.

How much you get out of life depends on how you look at it. Most of us don’t know how much time we have so we assume we have plenty. Enough that we can spend hours, days, years, or decades without a thought as to how much time we allow ourselves to sit on our keister and cry about the unfairness of it all.

Maybe the best thing we could do for ourselves is to consider how differently we would live if we knew we only had a short time left. Ask yourself: Who would I want to see? What would I want to do? How would I want to be remembered? Would that change my perspective?

copyright © October 2014 by L.S. Fisher

Friday, October 10, 2014

A Visit with Vicky

Each year when I visit Washington, D.C., to advocate for Alzheimer’s funding, I take my current blog book. This year I left copies of Garden of Hope with legislators. I leave these books with the thought that someone might read it—often a legislative aide—but seldom believe that the representative or senator will read the book.

I am an Alzheimer’s Ambassador for my representative, but due to a scheduling snafu, I did not get to meet personally with Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler. When I arrived at the scheduled time on my sheet, the Congresswoman was already gone. Her aide assured me that Vicky had wanted to meet with me and had waited several minutes past the time on her calendar. So I left the book and my apologies for the misunderstanding.

In early August, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a handwritten note from Congresswoman Hartzler thanking me for leaving her a copy of Garden of Hope. She wrote, “What a wonderful collection of insights into this tragic disease plus messages of hope in our fight to eradicate this debilitating illness.” She ended her note with “Thank you for leading the charge to bring awareness, spur action, and inspire hope.”

Okay, I’ll admit this was a first! I had never received a handwritten note from my representative. Then, another first…A few weeks ago I received a called from a “202” area code—Washington, D.C. When I answered the call, I was speaking to Adreine from Congresswoman Hartzler’s office. Adreine wanted to set up an appointment for the Congresswoman and me to meet for coffee on October 9. We agreed that I would meet her in the lobby of historic Bothwell Hotel and we would have coffee in the hotel’s restaurant, Ivory Grille.

On Thursday afternoon I arrived at Bothwell Hotel to find Vicky sitting in the lobby. We shook hands and she asked if I’d like to go somewhere else since the restaurant was closed for the afternoon. We decided to have our meeting in the lobby instead.

She talked about her morning at State Fair Community College where she spoke at a teen leadership summit. After our visit she was going to visit the Boys and Girls Club.

For the next forty-five minutes, we talked about Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on families. I had brought fact sheets that served to remind us how many Americans know the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s. There it was in purple, black, and white:

·         More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s
·         Every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s
·         Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States
·         Fifteen million Americans provide unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s
·         In 2014 the total cost of Alzheimer’s will be $214 billion—$150 billion to Medicare and Medicaid
·         0.25% of the cost of Alzheimer’s is being spent on research
·         Approximately 500,000 people die each year because they have Alzheimer’s

We talked of the frustration of how a mere 1.7% of the NIH’s budget goes toward Alzheimer’s research. I thanked the Congresswoman for being a co-sponsor of the Alzheimer’s Accountability
Act and for her unwavering support for Alzheimer’s research.

We shared our personal experiences. Talked of nursing homes, caregiving, and recognizing that a person with Alzheimer’s is a person first. Someone to love, and to find joy in his or her moments of clarity or humor.

We ended on a high note. I gave her a handout of what we are doing in Sedalia: Photos of our successful Walk to End Alzheimer’s and information about our local support group facilitated by Betty Hopkins.

Our meeting began with a handshake and ended with a hug. The Congresswoman and I are united in this battle against Alzheimer’s and for a world without it.

Copyright © October 2014 by L.S. Fisher


Watch the video of Facts and Figures:

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Clues to What Is Normal: Ten Warning Signs

For the past few days, I’ve been immersed in reading mystery stories for an anthology. A good mystery writer sprinkles clues throughout the entire story and then at the end it all makes sense. Sometimes you slap your head and believe you should have figured it out, and other times, you are completely surprised. It depends on the skill of the storyteller and how attentive you are.

I guess our greatest mystery in life is life itself. It seems that clues pop up every day in our relationships and our health. If we ignore those clues, or just don’t “get it” life can move forward while we are oblivious to what is happening.

Most of us fear the unknown. No matter how dire the diagnosis or prognosis, we realize that we have two choices: give up and be miserable, or live life to the fullest choosing quality over quantity if necessary.

Almost every disease has warning signs—and have you noticed that it is usually ten? Alzheimer’s is one that has narrowed the multitude of clues to a manageable ten. I’ve taken a look at the ten to see what the clues have to tell me.

The number one warning sign of Alzheimer’s is memory loss that disrupts daily life. We all forget things. Last month I showed up at the hair salon for my appointment a few minutes early so I sat down and started reading a magazine. My hairdresser came back from lunch and began to leaf through the appointment book. “Linda, I have your appointment down for tomorrow,” she said. Sure enough, I checked my calendar and there it was, same time, same place, wrong day. That interrupted that day a little for her and me, but it isn’t a warning sign of Alzheimer’s. Occasionally forgetting appointments is normal. Whew!

 The second warning sign is challenges in planning or solving problems. I had a nightmare about this a few nights ago. I dreamed I was taking a test and it used two words in questions that I didn’t recognize. How was I supposed to answer a question if I didn’t understand the words? Well, when I awoke in the middle of the night, I Googled paradigm (pattern) and esoteric (cryptic). The strange thing is that although I couldn’t place the meaning immediately, they made sense when I inserted them into the problems. With Alzheimer’s words and numbers may not make sense which can make solving a problem impossible.

Sign three is difficulty completing familiar tasks. I run into this often when I need a password or user name to pay a bill online. Part of the reason is that to get to the familiar task, I am using a new method. This is normal unless I forget that I need to pay bills.

The fourth sign is confusion with time or place. Since I’m retired, the days and months seem to swirl together. So sometimes I admit to being a little vague about the day of the week. Thank goodness, my granddaughter plays volleyball so monitoring her schedule helps me keep track of the days and the date. Oh, and the place. It really helps to show up at the correct gym.

The fifth sign is understanding visual images and spatial relationships. This includes reading and judging distance, both of which can affect driving. We won’t talk about me getting too close to the curb and scratching my fancy wheels—twice.

Number six: problems with words in speaking or writing. A person with Alzheimer’s might have trouble finding the right word…okay, so we all have that trouble from time to time. Sometimes, I’ll be leafing through my mental dictionary and can’t seem to come up with the correct word to express an idea. My mental Google is offline, the “page cannot be found” or is “not available at this time.” Sometimes it comes to me. Sometimes not. Still, considered to be normal.

The seventh sign is misplacing things and not being able to retrace steps. Let’s just say that I’ve had to call my cell phone everyday this week to locate the darn thing. I can’t remember where I left it. As long as I can remember the number, I’m considering that a normal sign of aging.

Number eight is poor judgment. My judgment is normally pretty good, but sometimes I’ll buy both pair of shoes rather than having to choose. Just saying!

The ninth sign is withdrawal from work or social activities. I withdrew from work permanently when I retired at the beginning of the year. I need to withdraw from a few social activities just because I like to stay at home once in awhile. After all, there’s a new season of The Voice to watch.

The tenth sign is changes in mood and personality—becoming fearful, depressed, confused, etc. Okay, I take ownership of being irritable from time to time, but, hey, that falls within normal range.

After reviewing the ten clues, I consider myself to be as normal as I’ve ever been. Life is a challenge for each of us, but as long as we use our strengths to compensate for our weaknesses, we’ll get by. Whatever the clues say is wrong with us, we always have the ability to opt for quality over quantity.

copyright © October 2014 by L.S. Fisher    

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Autumn and Alzheimer’s Risk

My mind is gravitating from Summer to Autumn. There are few signs of autumn here in Missouri unless you count Halloween decorations, corn fields, and maple trees. Grass and most trees are hanging on tightly to their summery green hues. Temperatures are still hovering around the 70s and 80s—more indicative of summer than fall. Heck, I even managed to get my worst sunburn of the year yesterday while working in the yard. I wore a swimsuit top (hate the look of an entire suit!) and a pair of shorts. My formerly pale back is now fiery red and hot, hot, hot.

Apparently the autumn equinox in the northern hemisphere, according to Google is either  September 21st, 22nd, or 23rd depending on the source. So, I went with my best source—the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which gives the date and time as September 22 at 10:29 p.m. Eastern Daylight Savings time. That makes me understand the discrepancy between the 22nd and 23rd, but not sure how the 21st fits in.

 When autumn is in its full glory, it is a season hard to beat. Often the retirement years are considered to be the autumn of life. After working at a day job for years, I’m looking forward to coming into full and colorful splendor and living a full, and still, productive life. Most healthy retirees have this same ambition.

Unfortunately, just when we are hitting our stride all those darn pesky diseases try to interfere.
I could easily break my biggest concerns down to a few major illnesses that I wouldn’t want to develop—the Big “C”, heart disease of any kind, or dementia. Our risk of developing any of these diseases increases with age.

Sometimes, it’s just the luck of the draw that determines what our future holds in store. Other times, we are our own worst enemies when it comes to maintaining good health. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle—luck of genotype and health habits. We all know people who smoke their entire lives and never develop lung cancer. Yet, smoking is clearly a risk factor for lung cancer since 80-90 percent of lung cancer is attributed to smoking.

Although we don’t have such numbers to indicate this strong connection between smoking and Alzheimer’s, smoking is considered a “significant” risk for vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  Those especially at risk are people who smoke heavily between the ages of fifty to sixty.

Smoking is by no means the only culprit to increase our risk of developing Alzheimer’s—at the top of the list is my personal nemesis—obesity and sedentary lifestyle. I continue to battle with weight issues and make an effort to make healthy food choices. And after the past three days, I’m feeling downright cocky about conquering the sedentary lifestyle. I’ve been doing yardwork, mowing, lifting and loading brush, bending, stooping, walking, and more aerobic/weight lifting than I ever accomplished when I had my gym membership. I don’t see any short-term end to the physical workout either with all that remains to be done.

To further complicate matters, obesity and sedentary lifestyles contribute to two other risk factors of Alzheimer’s—hypertension and diabetes. It’s a catch-22 situation.

In addition to controlling these risk factors, Maria Carrillo, Alzheimer’s Association vice-president of medical and scientific relations, adds other helpful ideas to cut the risk of Alzheimer’s. She said, “Other lifestyle aspects that may contribute to healthy brain aging are eating a brain-healthy diet, being mentally active, and being socially engaged.”

The best and safest way to modify Alzheimer’s risk is to make healthy lifestyle changes: don’t smoke, exercise your brain and body, control your weight, and become a social butterfly. Is it easy? Not a chance!

Remember the three dreaded diseases that cut short the autumn of many, many lives? Well, guess what? Reducing the risk for cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s slashes the chances of developing any of them. Sometimes good health can be attributed to genetics, but more often it requires a personal commitment,  determination, and perseverance.

copyright © September 2014 by L.S. Fisher 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Know What to Throw Away; Know What to Keep

Our Walk to End Alzheimer’s was Saturday and, as usual, I couldn’t help but be a little nervous about the weather. We were at the fairgrounds at 6:30 a.m. unloading vehicles, setting up tables, and trying to figure out the best places to put everything. Before the 8:30 a.m. registration time, we were set up and ready to go.

By walk time, we heard good news from the registration table—we were very close to our $34,000 goal, and with the pledges to come in after the walk—we would easily reach that amount. We handed out trophies to the largest team and the best-fundraising team which turned out to be the same team—Sylvia G. Thompson Residence Center. Fairview Nursing Home came in second in fundraising, and Jim’s Team came in third. I think that as a family team, coming in third is quite an honor.

In addition to the trophies, we recognized the youngest walker and the one with the most birthdays. This year it turned out that I was well acquainted with one of them and knew the proud mama of the other. The youngest “walker was Catherine, daughter of Jessica and Brandon Snell. Jessica is a co-chair of the Sedalia Walk. And the guy with the most birthdays was ninety-year-old John Chambers, better known to be as Uncle Johnny.

As soon as I came home from the walk, I faced the reality of having to find a new place to put everything in the home that I share with my new husband. I knew that the fundraiser and walk materials that I keep from year to year couldn’t stay in the back of Harold’s Tahoe forever. So, I went through the supplies and organized them to store on a shelf in the garage. Easy peasy, you say? Not quite. We had to reorganize the shelves in order to find a place for my three totes. We wound up with several trash bags, totes full of recyclable items, bags and boxes for Open Door, and, of course, there were the things to keep.

Wednesday, we made another trip to my house to start the monumental task of sorting through forty-five years of accumulation. The problem for me is that digging through drawers, boxes, papers, and miscellaneous cubbyholes, storage boxes, and stacks of stacks amounts to tearing at the heart of memories.

It’s easy for me to decide what to give to charity. Some items were easy to toss, especially those things I should never have kept in the first place, or those I’d just never gotten around to throwing away. But other things—Jim’s belt buckles, his knife, one of his many pocket watches—okay, those I had to keep. Harold kept pulling things out of drawers. A phone call to the optometrist settled the issue of Jim’s and my old eye glasses. Recycle.

Am I the only person that hides a few secret things in an underwear drawer? Harold tossed an old diary and a few of Jim’s letters from Vietnam that I managed to keep since 1969. I tossed them in the “keep” tote.

“What’s this,” he asked.

I looked up to see the yellow nightie I had taken to Hawaii when Jim and I married. Moment of truth. I couldn’t wear it anymore. It was old. I certainly wasn’t going to give it to Open Door for someone else to wear. “Hand it here,” I said. I threw it in the trash. And started crying.

So, in a few hours we cleaned out the dresser and chest of drawers. We hauled out several sacks of trash, but I still have to go through the bags of socks, underwear, pajamas, shirts, shorts, and odds and ends that would clothe a small nation.

It had been raining most of the day and as soon as the rain let up we loaded the Tahoe and started down the drive. I told Harold that I felt like I was throwing away part of my life. “You don’t have to throw away anything,” he said.

“Yes, I do.” I turned my head and looked out the window as we drove away. The tears came again.

It’s just too easy to accumulate and so hard to pare it down. I never wanted my kids to have to go through all my stuff when I’m gone. Yet, in reality, it would be much easier for them to decide what to throw away and what to keep. They wouldn’t have the emotional ties that I do and wouldn’t feel so much like they were throwing away a lifetime of memories.

copyright © August 2014 L. S. Fisher

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Alzheimer’s Walk Season: I Challenge You…

Sedalia Memory Walk 1998
We are entering Walk to End Alzheimer’s season, and I challenge you to join the fight against Alzheimer’s by participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s or donating $100 to support someone who is walking.

I first walked in 1998 with a small group—a couple from Slater, two people from the Alzheimer’s Association, and from Sedalia—Jim and me. Oh, let’s not forget the dog, Victoria. That was it, the Sedalia Memory Walk, 1998.

We are gearing up for Walk season and chipping away at our Sedalia Walk goal of $34,000. Our walk is one week from today—September 6. This morning, I went online and donated $100 in honor of Jim’s birthday. He would have been sixty-nine Wednesday.

Fundraising for a disease is hard work, and it seems that without a “fun challenge” it’s hard to compete for charity dollars. Social media has been abuzz about the ice bucket challenge for ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). The ice water videos have gone viral, netting $100 million in August for ALS. The movement is still going strong, and is in fact accelerating and gained over $65 million in one week. I’ve seen videos ranging from my grandchildren to mega-star celebrities like Dolly Parton.

I have to say that the ALS Association has been brilliant to latch onto the idea which they credit to Pete Frates, a 29-year-old former Boston College baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012. The ALS Association sought to trademark the “Ice bucket challenge” but withdrew the applications after public concern.

Why the heck would the public be concerned? Well, for one thing, the ice bucket challenge began as a pro athlete’s stunt giving $100 to a charity of choice. The dousing began with golfer Greg Norman and motorcycle racer Jeremy McGrath. If you declined the challenge, you were supposed to give $100 to a charity of your choice.

ALS is a horrible disease and when the ice bucket challenge turned exclusively to ALS it gained attention and a huge amount of funding.  According to ALS’s fact sheet 12,000 people in the U.S. have the disease, and my heart goes out to those who suffer from this debilitating motor neuron disease.

Let’s shift to ALZ (Alzheimer’s). We weren’t clever enough to latch onto the ice bucket challenge. Our premier fundraiser is the Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Our 600 Walks nationwide support more than five million Americans with Alzheimer’s. Nearly everyone you meet has lost a beloved relative or friend to this fatal disease. As we age, our chances of developing the disease increases to nearly fifty-percent. Every single one of us has a stake in finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

So my challenge to all my family and friends is not to douse yourself with ice water, but to put on walking shoes and head to the nearest Walk to End Alzheimer’s. If you can’t participate in a walk, donate $100 to your local Walk, and then challenge five friends to Walk or donate $100. It is easy to donate online at!

Okay, so I realize that isn’t nearly as much fun as watching someone get drenched with a bucket of ice water, but Alzheimer’s is a scary disease and without a cure, it will become even scarier in the next twenty years as we baby boomers age. So consider yourself challenged, and share the opportunity to End Alzheimer’s Now!

You can donate to Jim’s Team at

copyright © August 2014 by L.S. Fisher 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Life Is Short, Live It

Love is rare, grab it.
A few days ago, I came across a saying that really struck home with me: “Life is short, live it. Love is rare, grab it. Anger is bad, dump it. Fear is awful, face it. Memories are sweet, cherish it.” The person who came up with these words of wisdom is unknown, but it could be the story of my life, and perhaps yours.

When I was young, I thought life flowed forward with countless days of sunshine. I had that invincible conviction so common to the young. Eventually, I found out how short life was as the hard hand of death entered my life. Schoolmates died from terminal diseases when I was young. In early adulthood, the terminators included drug overdoses and car wrecks.

I also learned at an early age how rare true love is. Of course, I had my heart broken a few times, but when Jim entered my life, it was an entirely different experience. I found out what it meant to love and be loved without reservation, fearlessly, and with all my heart. Then, love blossomed with the birth of our sons, and later when our grandchildren were born.

Jim and I faced the world together, united. I had his back, and he always had mine. He was my protector, my best friend, and my love. When dementia struck, we faced the awful fear of the unknown along with the predictable outcome of the known. When Jim died, I was reminded of the shortness of life, the heartbreak of love lost, and the empty spot that replaced the part of myself that died.

I’ve never been a person to wallow in self-pity so I dumped the anger and began to pick up the pieces. I found happiness with my family and friends. I kept busy—oh, my, have I ever kept busy. My life became full and rich again.

That rare emotion, love, entered my life again, and I said “yes” to grabbing it. On Saturday, August 16, I took the final step to make my life complete when I married my longtime best friend, Harold.

My sons walking me down the aisle
We started our married life with a lovely ceremony surrounded by family. While honeymooning in Branson, we stopped at a scenic overlook. I offered to take a photo of two couples, older and younger. They offered to take a picture of us. When Harold retrieved our camera, he told them we had just married the day before. “Oh, are you going to start a family?” he asked Harold.

“We already have grandchildren,” Harold replied.

An only child, never married, Harold has inherited an instant, large family. My mom and I were talking about the change in his status recently. “I hope the shock doesn’t kill him,” she joked.

Sure, being married again is going to require adjustments for me. I still find it hard to think of Jim as “my first husband.” I’ll no longer have all the personal time that I’ve had in the past. And I’ll no longer have sole possession of the TV remote control. We have a few conflicts with what we record on our DVR’s—after all I don’t want to give up American Idol or The Voice.

In the big scheme of things, those are just minor adjustments. The major benefits of our marriage far outweigh the drawbacks. I now have someone to love—and he’ll always have my back, and I’ll have his. We have good times together, whether it’s working on a project, traveling, visiting family, watching TV, or sitting on the deck, drinking coffee, and playing with our dog Lucy.

Unity Sand Ceremony
Harold and I have joined hands to make one heart. During the unity sand ceremony on our wedding day, Pastor Burton said, “As these containers of sand are poured together, the individual containers will no longer exist, but will be joined as one. Just as these sands can never be separated and poured again into the individual containers, so will your marriage be a molding of two individual personalities, bonded together forming one heart, one love.”

What can I say? Life is good. I’ve been lucky in love, twice.

When I look back on my life thus far, I have a treasure chest of sweet memories stored in my brain. I appreciate the value of life, and love, and look forward to creating many more special moments.

copyright © August 2014 by L. S. Fisher

Sunday, August 10, 2014

You Are My Sunshine: Vitamin D and Alzheimer’s

What’s not to love about bright sunshiny summer days? Here it is summer and some of us have been soaking up the rays whether at the beach, the backyard, or while gardening. When ultraviolet rays shine on our skin, it triggers a vitamin D synthesis. 

When I was growing up, we did not have an air conditioner at home, so naturally we spent a lot of time outdoors. Times have changed, and air-conditioning is the norm. Now, we spend much more time indoors under the comfort of air-conditioning during sunshiny summer days.

This lifestyle change has brought about common deficiency of vitamin D in a huge portion of the population. Most of us know that vitamin D deficiency has consequences. Without an adequate level of it, we cannot absorb calcium which causes inadequate bone development in the young and bone loss as we grow older. This is why milk is fortified with vitamin D.

In addition to fortified milk, other sources of the sunshine vitamin are oily fish (salmon, mackerel, bluefish, and canned tuna). It is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone.

The natural source is sunlight, but we have become afraid of the sun. We slather on sunscreen and avoid any exposure. When we do this, we no longer absorb essential vitamin D. The very reason we avoid the sun is to reduce the risk of cancer, but oddly enough, low levels of vitamin D increases cancer rates. Low levels of the sunshine vitamin are also linked to higher blood pressure, heart disease, and Type 1 diabetes in children.

In addition to previously known health issues associated with vitamin D deficiency, researchers have found a link between vitamin D and Alzheimer’s risk. People with moderate deficiencies of this essential vitamin have nearly a 70 percent higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In severe deficiencies, this risk skyrockets to 122 percent.

Researchers believe that vitamin D helps rid cells of beta-amyloid plaques, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. One of the leading researchers in the study, David J. Llewellyn, University of Exeter Medical School, said, “It seems to be that vitamin D was actually helping to break down and take away those protein abnormalities.”

Doctor Michael Holick, Boston University, who is an expert on vitamin D recommends stocking up on vitamin D during the summer. He suggests five to ten minutes two or three times a week outdoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. wearing minimal clothing and without sunscreen except for the face. Sun deprived people, and breast fed infants, should take a supplement.

Summer will soon be over, so now is the time to stock up on the sunshine vitamin. Just remember, moderation, moderation, moderation!

copyright © August 2014 by L.S. Fisher