Frozen Snickers for Everyone

March 16, 2012 - Trish Vradenburg

Remember the good old days when statins were the safest drug to take? Oh, wait, that was last month.

I am currently on a statin. I began a few years ago when I read an article that alleged that statins could help prevent Alzheimer’s. This was of no small concern to me since my Mom had died from Alzheimer’s and women are more likely to die from Alzheimer’s than men (65% of Alzheimer’s patients are women, 35% are men); even more so if their mother had Alzheimer’s – but that’s another story. So when I read an article that said statins were the panacea for bad cholesterol and possibly Alzheimer’s, I jumped on the statin bandwagon. True, my cholesterol was fine, but if the statins could help prevent Alzheimer’s and who knows what else, what’s the harm?

Two weeks ago I found out. Memory loss, forgetting, and being confused have been reported as a side effect from some people taking statin medications. The memory loss was described as being “fuzzy,” and the FDA said that the memory loss was reversible once the person stopped taking the medication. Hmm.

So what if everything else that has been recommended was also not true?

Maybe "broccoli is good for your health" was made up by the green vegetable growers in the San Fernando Valley? Maybe Snickers candy bars get a bum rap? I’d certainly like to think so.

And how about exercising for your health? My grade school friend, Marsha Thompson, had the most incredibly physically fit father in the neighborhood. We would watch him do a hundred Marine pushups, then lift fifty pound weights, then play a game of pickup up basketball. At the community pool, Mr. Thompson lifted Marsha on one arm and me on the other as though we were two-pound marshmallows. He was like Superman without the ability to fly (though I secretly believed he could). Every kid on the block wished Mr. Thompson was his dad. But then one freezing day in January, after a ferocious blizzard that buried all of the cars, Mr. Thompson, age 37 (which seemed very old then) simply collapsed, dead, while shoveling snow. How could that have happened to Mr. Thompson? Was exercising good for him? Would Mr. Thompson have been better off if had he just stayed in bed? I struggled with this question when I was ten.

There are the foods that supposedly can help fight Alzheimer’s. According to the experts, ginger, rhubarb, cinnamon, cranberries and, particularly, blueberries, are all Alzheimer’s defenders. That’s what I should be eating. But, then, I’m not a big fan of blueberries – too tart. So I have to find a decent delivery system that is palatable. My delivery system of choice is a pie ala mode. Blueberry pie – now that’s a great compromise. Now everyone is happy. (Except maybe my nutritionist…you can’t please everyone!)

And then there are the "maintain your brain" exercises. Crossword puzzles, for instance, are always advised to keep your mind supple. I love crossword puzzles. My mom always was doing a crossword puzzle. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn she was doing one when she was delivering me. And yet, it didn’t help her avoid Alzheimer’s,

I don’t know, maybe it’s the luck of the draw. My father was a confirmed fatalist, but he was also a devout man who prayed constantly. Maybe he was just covering all his bases.

So do I just throw my fate to the wind? I have come to the conclusion that that’s not for me. I have to look at evidence and then go with my instincts. Everything has a possible downside. Including – darn it – eating frozen Snickers. Particularly staying home, lying in bed, doing nothing. So I will talk to my docs, and look at evidence, and weigh the "what-ifs?", toss a few coins and go with my gut.

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