Air Pollution, Education & Dementia Risks Unique to the Transgender Community
00:00:01 – 00:05:00
welcome to fading memories. A podcast with advice wisdom and hope from caregivers who have lived the experience and survived. Tell the tale. Think of us as your caregiver. Best friend as you know. My mom suffered from. Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment affected my grandmother and great grandmother. It seems to run in my family. But i’ve learned my brain. Health doesn’t have to follow the same fate as those who came before me. I am doing what. I can to improve the health of my brain including eating a better diet and exercising. However i learned recently that when it comes to nutrition most of us are still living with undernourished brains. And i know i need something to fill those nutritional gaps this led me to neuro reserve and their product relevant relevant is a nutritional supplement that restores the vital nutrients free healthy aging brain renovate includes seventeen the most important nutrients that specifically target long-term brain health. These nutrients come from the mediterranean and mind diets which studies have discovered can reduce our risk of alzheimer’s by over fifty percent. You can use my code f. M. fifteen fifteen percent off of your order. This code is good for subscriptions which will apply to all future orders as well as individual orders go to neuro reserve dot com to purchase. The link is in the show notes and you can also find it on my website. Neuro reserves mission is to help our brains span match our lifespan. I was honored to speak to one but two doctors from the alzheimer’s association who had presentations. At this year’s alzheimer’s association international conference the afc conference is the largest and most influential international meeting dedicated to advancing dementia science each year. Afc convenes the world’s leading basic science and clement clinical researchers next generation investigators clinicians and the care research community to share research discoveries that lead to methods of prevention and treatment and improvements in the diagnosis of alzheimer’s disease. I am confident that you will find both of these conversations. The first one being released today the next one later this week both informative and interesting. And hopefully we’ll get you interested in learning more about the alzheimer’s association with me. Today is dr. Rebecca etel meyer. She is the senior director of scientific engagement for the alzheimer’s association. And we’re gonna be talking about some research and findings and other good things that have happened in the past year. So thank you for joining me. Rebecca -olutely it’s nice to be here. Thank you for inviting me jennifer. You’re welcome social. We just start at the top. And there’s been some studies on air quality and how improving air quality can reduce our risk for alzheimer’s disease. Which i can kind of guess as to why that is but let’s not go guessing. Just ask you. How does improving air quality improve our cognitive function and reduced our dementia risks. Though we’ve been really looking at a lot of different things that may drive risk across all populations and and when we think about those thinking about ones that might be modifiable things that we could change and things that might not be modified Not modifiable things that we can’t change like our age right But when we look across the spectrum of things that maybe are possibilities of places where we can reduce our risk drive towards risk reduction. We’re looking at things that up for example like air quality and now. We’ve been studying this for some time. We’ve learned that poor air quality as well as pollution may drive Risk for individuals for developing alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. But this is the first time we’re seeing in our alzheimer’s association international conference this year. Some data that suggest actually improving air quality reducing pollution over time mainly to lower risk for developing dementia or alzheimer’s make sense. And i you know with my zero science background and very much convinced that modern life is not good for our brains stress and pollution and noise and not great food. Great food choices. I think there’s a lot of things we could do to improve our our cognitive wellbeing. Our brain health one company. I work with has a slogan. Says they want your brain health bearing spanned last year.
00:05:00 – 00:10:03
Lifespan and i like that so need to all work towards that. But i had never heard that poor air quality might play a function although it when you think about it it does make a little bit sense. So what steps do you think we should be taking. Maybe as a cities states government than a like. Oh boy we don’t really want to rely on them so much. What should we be thinking about. Quitting our leaders to do to improve air quality. I think that’s a great question. I think we need to start somewhere. And i think that really starts with research in the sense that we need to learn what this really means for. All communities air quality is different across all communities across the globe. Really we don’t have all of that data and research completed at this time. There’s much more that we still need to do to better understand the risk across all populations across the globe. But i think when we learn more about information what it will help us to do is drive towards more effective strategies of improving air quality for all if we truly for all individuals if we truly find that this is something that’s driving risk and populations over time and that improving that quality is going to drive down risk so what we’re looking for his multiple ways. I think in the future to make sure that individuals all across the globe are going to have those strategies at their fingertips. Federal governments local governments will be able to incorporate that into their strategies for overall better community. Care across the world to make sense. I think it’s gonna come down to local communities and local government. I am in the san francisco bay area. But i’m in a valley where the pollen filters in doesn’t filter back out so we have a huge occurrence of seasonal allergies which at this point with lack of rain is almost year round for some people. I’ve lived here my whole life. So i feel kind of immune most of the time to those pollens and that stuff but we also have the smoke that comes in from all the fires we have here in california. I also live in a what was a exclusively rural community that growth in agriculture. So we all have cropdusting. So even though i’m a smaller city away from things like airports train stations and all that stuff i would think that our air quality is not bad but maybe it could be better. I think i think you’re right. Jennifer and i think that’s one of the things i want to circle back on is because those are things that you and i. It may be difficult for us to change our location where we live in we need. We will need big structures around improving air quality than just our own personal responsibility for that. And that’s where we start talking about policies that might need to be implemented and that’s where the research will be important to make sure that we have a data to back that up but there are going to be things that we can continue to do across our life course that maybe we have more personal responsibility for and can change in a lot of that. Research focuses on Things across our life course around education even Are a physical activity. Nutrition diet these types of things may be things that we can control a little bit better hope. So that’s my goal is. I have a three generation history of cognitive decline on my mom’s side of the family. So i am not going to be the fourth generation so you did talk about some personal things that we might be able to do. That was kind of my last question. Unless i missed anything. He wanted to throw out there but what steps. Maybe should we do in our personal lives in our homes. Businesses may be to improve air quality. Because i’ve read that. Sometimes the air quality in our own homes is not great. Air is better outside although not always not always where i live when it’s a orange skies and smoke all over the place. It’s a good question. i’m not sure. I have a perfect answer for you. But i think one thing that maybe i would suggest individuals at this time is it might be good to be able to learn more about the air quality that exists for you and your family around your but bill location where you live so there might be strategies in place within your communities that you could also reach out to to find out that information may may have some suggestions because it might be dependent on where you live like you said pollen might be an issue in your area when pollution might be an issue somewhere else so i think that over time As we learn more from the research will be able to give. I think more effective strategies to each individual person. that will be most impactful. I think for their health and their families health moving forward. That sounds fantastic and it makes sense. Is there any last quick question.
00:10:03 – 00:15:08
I now ask this. How long is this research continuing. Do we know. Oh yeah as a scientist. I think my answer is the research will always continue. We were learning something new every day and especially in this area. This is a little bit of a newer area or looking at the relationship. I think between sort of cognition and air quality and air pollution. This is not a space that we’ve seen a lot of research at this time and We we need. We need to continue to see more at our alzheimer’s association international conference. We’ve seen some research over the past few years i would say that it’s mostly What they call epidemiological observational. They’re looking at large bits of data around different countries different communities but again i think the we know were globally All the sort of risk factors that are being driven by air quality. Or i would say we need to know more globally whether or not the mench is being driven by risk factors like air pollution. I think we we need to still continue to do that. Research Every day i agree plus. It’s interesting to tell people. If i was half my age and had twice as much scientific aptitude is i have currently have. I would probably go into brain research because i think it’s fascinating. Fortunately more artists than scientific. So you guys wouldn’t want my helps we need everybody’s help we need. Everybody involved sean. Just ask all the questions. Because i’m i’m just very curious. So that kind of turns us to our next topic which is on education and may feel that education is expected to degree decrease global dementia cases by twenty fifty. Just good. because i’ll be in my late seventies and what. I’ve read that people with alzheimer’s or other dimensions that are also very intelligent. Generally have more coping techniques to get around the memory issues and so sometimes those people it feels that their progression is very rapid. Because we don’t. They have so many good coping tools that once. They run out of those tools all of a sudden. Now it’s like whoa. What’s going on with our loved one which is always found really interesting but what role does education play in in brain development and cognitive health. That’s like a really. That’s a big. That’s a deep question. Though i think is actually gets back to something. I touched on where we’re trying to learn. Really what drives risk across all populations and the the risk can fall into categories. That as i mentioned are things that we might be able to change things that we might not be able to. An education does fall into the things that we may be able to change and there has been a significant amount of research. It’s been been done around education because it’s one of those things that you can actually follow from the very early young ages in at least you can follow through data around children’s development through school systems and help how many years they’ve been in school And whether they’ve completed higher education we’ve seat. We see a lot of that data for a lot of different countries But in terms of what we’re seeing about education it does suggest that for many individuals. More education does seem to provide sort of a benefit to our cognition across the life. Course now that being said that is something that we’re still learning more about because it’s not necessarily also talked about the number of years that you are educated it’s also the quality of the education and the access to education that we need to continue to learn more about so while education is something that might actually decrease dementia prevalence. It may be counter acted by other things that are also increasing or driving a dementia risk. And we see that in things like Poor cardiovascular hell High blood sugar smoking obesity. Those are the things that are kind of counteracting each other so while education may be beneficial in support of cognition. These other factors are driving. Something that is going to be against what we would want in terms of of risk prevention risk reduction which makes sense. Because you’re that’s a lot of damage you’re doing to your system with the sugar. Is the smoking processed foods. All that stuff. I talk about that a lot. His i i’ve been on a i on a very large weight. Loss journey to avoid the diabetes on my paternal side of the family and then discovered that i was doing my brain very big favor so you touched a little bit on early education. Do we have any idea or indication if early. it’s education is more important for brain health and lifelong dynamic learning or to just keep challenging our our brains like maybe i should go into science.
00:15:10 – 00:20:09
That’s a good question again. I think that We are learning that certainly early education is is beneficial beneficial at a younger age From the outset and again that’s something we can kind of follow for for many different countries for many different individuals across time without having to do invasive research on them right we can look. We can look back in history and understand what their trajectory was. Then we can look at them now. Maybe they’re seventy five years old and understand are they in a situation of developing dementia living with today so that’s where education can be Very beneficial. I think what we would like to see though is more research to better understand. Exactly what the recipe is for education at an older age. You know. when is it still going to be beneficial. What type of education with its formal or informal. There’s a lot of that research on going. And you alluded to this idea. You didn’t use the terms but you alluded to the idea of cognitive reserve and resilience and these are some topics that researchers are are are really investing right now to truly understand what biologically is changing in the brain. When we’re talking about education and cognitive stimulation may actually help. Protect our brains across the life. Course and so. There’s much more that still needs to be learned When it comes to education what the right recipe for that is across the life course but. I think that we’re seeing research every day. It’s really helping us to define that. Ev learned that obviously from birth to. I’m not sure what age early twenties. They believe that we’re constantly growing new neurons and it was assumed that after a certain age that we stopped. That opinion has changed. That’s why i asked you know. Early education was more important than lifelong learning. And kind of getting the idea that we should just learn as much as we can for as long as we keep our brands active yet challenging. Our brains. I think is important. I think it’s never going to hurt. It’s never too early to start and it’s never too late to start. That is kind of what we’re going with. That conversation is keeping yourself challenged. Socially cognitively there is definitely research ongoing the alzheimer’s association’s actually leading a clinical trial. Right now called the. Us pointer study. That is really testing a multi domain approach to risk reduction in it includes sort of better management of nutrition your physical activity your social and cognitive engagement and As well as a management of your heart health factors because we know cardiovascular diseases also another risk factor so as we learn more about that recipe for success we hope that those will be strategies that all communities can use had a conversation with a friend who recently started using a cpap machine and discovered that his blood pressure decreased which is good. And i said your aware that heart health is the same as brain health and he had not heard that phrase and so when i explained to him that the more oxygenated blood his brain was good and that was making his heart work less hard. That’s not very good grammar. Pardon me it was a very interesting conversation about heart. Health and brain health being intertwined on almost like a. You can’t separate them. So is there anything else we need to know about Education in global dementia cases before we move onto our last topic. I’ll i think you kind of started touching on it. I think some of what we’re seeing at the afc. This year is going to be trying to better understand to not only about education. What is driving global prevalent prevalence of dementia and When we think about education in the context of what we’re speaking about today we’re also seeing not only dementia cases increasing but we’re also seeing increases in mortality increase in death than many people don’t realize alzheimer’s disease is a fatal disease. We don’t like to talk about it but it is and some of those things that we’re seeing at the at the conference is you’re showing. The numbers are increasing in terms of mortality. And that mostly is driven by demographics were growing into an aging population. Right now right. Age is the biggest risk factor for alzheimer’s. But as we talk again about some of those other things that are driving increases in mortality. We’re also seeing that. There may be some disproportional disproportionate impact on communities that do not have access to things like education or have were Access to healthcare and that gets back to your cardiovascular health points that if we’re not taking good care of our hearts across time we’re not receiving We’re we’re not benefitting from access to some of these.
00:20:09 – 00:25:08
Other things like education. We may be in a situation where there’s communities that are disproportionately affected by dementia and even are dying at higher rates from dementia. So that’s something that we need to continue to learn more about again to drive towards more effective strategies for all communities. We do know that. People of color have a higher risk of alzheimer’s and dementia. ‘s and maybe some of these things we’ve discussed already clay into that. There’s a lot of things. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people in those communities and there’s a lot of things that i think are driving but whatever we can fix would be terrific which made brings us to one last community that i have not had a lot of conversations with i’m gonna have to change it. We’ve they’re also studying. How transgender adults are more likely to experience subjective cognitive decline in depression. And so can you explain to so we all are on the same page. Subjective cognitive decline is. That’s not a term. i’m familiar with. Yeah so when we talk about cognitive decline it really is something that occurs across a continuum and subjective cognitive decline really sits at the front end of that continuum so we’re we’re cognitively unimpaired But we may move into stages for moving through phases a towards cognitive decline of subjective cognitive decline. Which is a time when this is really more. Self reported Changes that you’re experiencing in your cognition your memory your thinking but they may not yet show up as any significant changes on maybe a comment of test that you receive at your doctor’s office but you know something’s not right you can sense it and then you may move into phases of what they call mild cognitive impairment. That’s again some some changes that you’re experiencing. Maybe they’re sort of starting to affect some of your activities of daily living but still not still not completely Impairing you from from doing everything that you used to do. And then you move. Maybe into phases of dementia mild moderate to severe stages of dementia. That’s really impacting. Your activities of daily living. So what we’re talking about right now is subjective cognitive decline. This is some of those earliest stages where people are noticing change and as we know in alzheimer’s and other dementias it’s so critical that we start having conversations about those changes at the earliest time points with our families with our physicians because we know that early detection and accurate diagnosis are going to be the most beneficial to people that are at risk for developing dimension. The future a you. I tell the story frequently that might we had a family business together and my mom at fifty two and a half with occasionally take orders from clients and now right down due dates or instructions or anything of benefit and then they’d cut the client would come in to pick it up. We’d be like oh sorry oops. It was very easy to dismiss it as a well. Somebody else came on the phone rang. She needed to use the restroom where it was very easy to dismiss but it started happening more and more and it was much harder to ride off as something normal and one of the conversations i’ve had in the somewhat. Recent past is a friend of ours was kind of doing the same thing in her husband was kind of giving her the business about her mind how she was scattered and he was making comments but he was also concerned but it was. She’s she puts too much on her plate. She stressed out and remind us all over the place. So it’s it’s natural very easy again to dismiss as normal. And i told him that is how my mother started. I’m gonna keep an eye on her thankfully like five or six years later. She’s still fine. But it helps to have these conversations so that people realize you know this is out of the norm. Okay it’s easy to dismiss but maybe we should pay attention just in case because you know. Prevention is a lot easier than dealing with alzheimer’s so the back to the transgender dolts. Now that we’ve defined subjective cognitive decline which i liked that term. Now i’ve learned something new today. It’s very very helpful. For me. to steady you’re referencing looked at mood and cognition in transgender. Non binary adult did the results also cli- to sis gender adults. And i ask this because i’ve read that low levels of depression have also been attributed to cognitive decline which i also think was one of. My mom’s issues was a long winded question too so depression definitely applies to gender adults as well in.
00:25:08 – 00:30:06
We’ve seen that. Some mental health factors like depression can be a risk factor even for developing dementia in the future And it’s really important that people continue to keep those health factors and check with their physicians But when we’re talking what we’re really seeing in terms of the research is that over the past few years we’re starting to see some of the first research come out In communities and understanding experiences with dementia in the lesbian gay bisexual communities we saw this over the past few years at our international conference. But what we’re seeing new this year is what are those experiences individuals that are transgender or are by living as part of the bisexual and Gender non binary communities and so what they are seeing is that these individuals are actually reporting. more subjective cognitive decline Than than their this gender counterparts and we are seeing that individuals who are non binary also transgender reporting more depression as well so then their gender counterparts so that’s that’s new information. We’ve never actually seen this before in these communities ended the study. Look at basically. Systemic discrimination is possible causes of the obviously the depression in the cognitive issues. In this group. Well i think the studies themselves did not specifically look at what was causing. Some of these The prevalence that we’re seeing in these communities. That’s definitely a next step so a great point but what we do know is that that type of health disparity and in terms of individuals access to healthcare already exists for these communities. We know that systemic discrimination does exist for these communities so we’re learning that these individuals are not necessarily getting quality healthcare from their their clinical communities that that that they are embedded in. And and that’s something that really does need to change So i think what we i need to do is identify The issue and then we need to come up with a strategy is to make sure that there’s culturally competent health care being delivered to all communities more learning for medical community. Absolutely no question. That i hadn’t written down but popped into my head. Is we know that there may be a hormonal connection to alzheimer’s in women have they looked at any of the hormonal treatments. I’m not sure if that’s the right phrase for the transgender community. If that’s affecting their their cognitive health at all or is that that down the road to There’s no evidence to date to suggest that undergoing gender reassignment or taking hormones increases risk for dementia at this time Though we know that hormones may role in how our brains are operating overall and so there’s a lot of research it’s still ongoing to try to understand even the differences between The sexes In terms of We we do know that. There’s more women than men that are living with alzheimer’s disease today. We still don’t know what’s driving that there may be biological factors like remotes but there may be other types of factors social aspects. That may be driving some of that as well or probably a combination of all of the above obsolete combination. I have always said that you know people think that space is our final frontier. I disagree with that. I think the brain is our final frontier. I have a feeling we know more about space than we do about the workings of our brain. Sounds like we’re we’re working on fixing that way are actually think i’m gonna steal that from you. I think that’s great I think that’s a great observation. And the brain is fascinating. It’s incredibly conflicts and there are so many things that we do still need to learn. Because i think that there are so many individuals around the world that are living with alzheimer’s living with some other form of dementia. And we need to be able to continue to do that research. It’s gonna to help us bind really effective strategies and solutions not only for their treatment but also their care fully agree. I appreciate you spending much of your precious time with me today. I think that my listeners will benefit tremendously from this conversation. And is the conference sicher the international conference that the name is slipping my mind at the site rate the second alzheimer’s What is the. What is the name of the conference. Is it open to non science people like myself yes. The alzheimer’s association international conference is taking place in about two weeks now and so we it is open.
00:30:06 – 00:33:23
It’s really really is meant to be primarily for a researcher and clinician audience. That there is the possibility of people are interested in attending. It’s a hybrid of the conference this year. so that people can attend virtually if they’re interested in. And just so you know. There is a no cost. Virtual passive people wanna get a flavor of the Alzheimer’s association international conference And they might be an individual that is living with dementia or caregiving. For someone with the mancha. They’re more than welcome to join us and they can. They can watch some of the plenaries which with some of the biggest talks that are happening throughout the conference of the week of an awesome. I appreciate this tremendously. And i will be on vacation so i do not know if i’ll be able to pop in but maybe i’ll just attend in person sunday. That would be wonderful. Great to meet you in person jennifer. Thank you so much. i don’t know about you. But all of these conversations. I find super fascinating and really hopeful that we’re getting closer and closer to figuring out what causes alzheimer’s disease as you guys all know. I have three generations of women in my family who had cognitive impairment and died because of it. And i’m really determined not to be the fourth. Let’s just one generation too many so. I hope you enjoyed this conversation. I hope that you will enjoy the one that will be coming out on thursday. The a conference is generally held in june late june. So keep that in mind for next year we will definitely be done with all of this cova nonsense. That is my putting it out there. In the universe positively and i am sure that they will still be a virtual component. And it’s definitely something to keep in mind for the future on a slightly more administrative note. My listener survey concluded that many of you are very interested in having a community where listeners and myself can communicate and talk to each other. Ask questions give advice on the show ideas all the good stuff that communities offer so please make sure to like the facebook page because of that is where we will initiate this community. I’m sure we’ll take a little time to grow but feel free to reach out. If you’ve got a question a suggestion. I would love to hear from you. Also if you’re not subscribe to the youtube channel could you hop over there and do that channels linked in the show notes. Just like everything else sometimes. It’s actually kind of interesting to see the guests that i am talking to and occasionally they make references to things that they can see that you cannot so it might be worth pop in there occasionally. I also post somewhat regularly bonus videos that are not podcast episodes specifically hope that makes sense. It’s getting late. And i’m getting tired and as always i’ll be in your ears again. Wait not just next tuesday but also this thursday have a great week everyone.