Cognitive Decline Scares the Crap Out of Me, So This Is My Plan to Weasel Out of It

In which, she gets neurotic about neurons.

Jill Francis

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Woman in yellow pants with a disco ball in front of her face as though it’s her head.
Photo by Anna Tarazevich

Let’s play the most effed-up game of roulette ever, shall we? Imagine that instead of numbers, there are the various diseases and maladies that befall aging people on the wheel. We’ve got cancer of all flavors, various issues resulting in physical compromise, organ diseases requiring transplants or removal, metabolic disorders, heart conditions, and a whole host of nastiness if we can’t breathe anymore. If we spin it at this point, we’re absolutely screwed, but what really ups the ante for me is when we add Alzheimer’s, dementia, and cognitive decline to the mix. If the ball lands on one of those conditions, I don’t want to think about not being able to think about it. Am I twisted if I’d rather end up minus a kidney or plus a stent if it means I can keep my noodle intact?

Maybe don’t answer that.

I know that not everyone shares my opinion. I once went with a friend to visit her aunt who was at the stage of Alzheimer’s when she could no longer recognize faces, among other things. I thought my pal was going to be in pieces after visiting with this woman who wouldn’t have known her from Cher. But, she turned to me and said, “I want that. I don’t want to know how bad it is. Just give me oblivion.” In a way, I admire this take. Imagine being so OK with the fine edges of life slipping away that you’re ready to bong hit your way into the next dimension. I’m too neurotic and paranoid to accept this, of course. But, in my defense, I’m not an Olympian or a runway model, I can’t fix a car or build a house. All I’ve got is the pot of polenta between my ears and if I don’t have that, I’m in trouble.

So, I’ve become obsessed with brain health and trying to figure out what I can do to avoid having all of my marbles fall out of the bag. I’ve started to incorporate tips and tricks from what I’ve learned and though I’m no expert, I am very good at making myself think I’m being proactive and prudent just because I stress-read fourteen studies in a row in Nature Neuroscience. So, if you, too, are interested in keeping your EEG lit up like it’s 1990 at The Roxy, let me share my round-up of brain health best practices.

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Jill Francis

American immigrant in Italy with too many degrees in Psychology. I write about everything I’m afraid of. jillfranciswrites@gmail.com