Finding the Blessings
I was privileged to hear about research that a friend, Yifat Miller, is involved in at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev that tracks the link between Type II Diabetes and the increased risk factor for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
She opened her presentation by stating that every 70 seconds someone on the planet is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It is the most common form of dementia, the main factors being age (above 65) and gender (twice as many women). Health also plays a part. Those already battling heart problems, high blood pressure and cholesterol, strokes and diabetes are more prone to succumbing to this disease.
The brains of those with Alzheimer’s show an increased level of the protein beta amyloid that clump together and build up plaques. The small clumps may block cell-to-cell signaling at synapses. They may also activate immune system cells that trigger inflammation and devour disabled cells.
Parkinson’s is another brain disease where a protein, alpha-synuclein, forms clumps that are the pathological hallmark of the disease. Parkinson’s affects movement and motor symptoms among other functions. Yifat’s lab was involved in a first study that shows at the molecular level how the alpha-synuclein proteins form the clumps.
Using computer simulations they continue to try to understand how the mechanisms of these diseases work at the molecular level. It is Yifat’s dream to design a drug that would prevent the clumping between two distinct proteins (that are related to these diseases), thereby possibly forestalling the onset in those more prone to them; namely, to prevent patients with diabetes from developing neurodegenerative diseases.
I called Yifat a few days after her presentation to clarify my understanding of her lecture. I was so jetlagged at the time, after my trip to China, that I almost fell asleep standing up! And I was standing so as not to fall asleep.
I am trying as much as possible to find my rythm in routine. I've been making myself go to bed as late as possible so that I'll sleep through the night. There are no shortage of things to do to tire me out, including my weekly trips to Netanya.
I had a lovely visit this week with my parents. As I was getting ready to go home, Mom asked if I was afraid to travel by myself. Then, innocently, “Do your parents know?”
When Daddy drove me to catch the bus, we had a few minutes to chat by ourselves. He told me how difficult it is in the mornings with Mom. She needs help but won’t admit it. She forgets how to shower and dress. And she becomes angry when Daddy tries to assist.
“Sometimes I feel sorry for her,” he told me. Mom can’t even remember what she did a few minutes ago.
“Sometimes I feel sorry for you,” I countered. Daddy is on the front lines of this disease, and he is adapting as fast as he can to each day’s new reality.
Sometimes, though, I realize we’ve been blessed. We spend time together. We laugh. We love. There will probably be no cure for Alzheimer’s in Mom’s lifetime. So while scientists try to understand and solve the Alzheimer’s puzzle, we will continue to rally round and do our best.
I’m still thinking about and processing my trip to China. One of my outlets for this is cooking. Here’s an exciting—and slightly spicy—way to cook cabbage.
Chinese Cabbage Stir-fry
If you love ginger, this recipe is for you. Don’t be shy about adding a 2nd teaspoon of ginger to the dish to enhance it’s flavor.
1 small head cabbage sliced by hand
1 carrot julienned (cut into small, thin strips)
1 Tbsp vegetable
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp ginger
3-4 cloves garlic minced
½ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp prepared mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp dry red wine
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2-3 chives chopped
In a small bowl, combine garlic, pepper, ginger, mustard, salt and pepper. In another small bowl, mix rice vinegar, wine, and soy sauce. Heat a large pan on high heat, then gently pour in oil. Add garlic and spices to hot oil and cook for a few seconds until fragrant. Add cabbage and carrot. When cabbage begins to wilt, add soy and other liquids. Stir. Cover and cook on high for one minute. Uncover and cook for another five minutes until cabbage is tender but not too soft. Stir in chives.