S1E45. Subtle Changes

Just like that…it’s gone! Now you think it; now you don’t. POOF!

It’s quite the magic trick…making thoughts disappear like that. If only I knew how I do it!

Following up on the second blog I posted last December, I’ve noticed that I no longer experience the phenomenon of walking into a room and forgetting why I went there. There’s been a subtle shift. It’s morphed into something a little different.

What happens now is that I completely forget my original intent. For a moment, I don’t even realize I’ve forgotten it. Instead, I’ll do something else that needs doing in that area just as if that had been my purpose. Only after I’ve started that task do I realize that I had another purpose…and then it comes back to me. For example, the other day, I walked into the kitchen and started to unload the dishwasher before I remembered that the reason I went into the kitchen in the first place was to make some tea.

It’s only a fleeting experience, so there is no real down-side to it, and there is the benefit that I get things done that I obviously had deferred. Clearly, though, something has changed.

It reminds me a little of a video I saw about a form of ADHD that is caused by cognitive decline and dementia. It documented the story of a woman who couldn’t get anything done around the house because she was constantly being distracted by other needs before she could complete the previous task…and this went on all day.

Fortunately, what I’m experiencing is nothing like that. I catch on to what’s happening pretty quickly and I complete all the intended tasks…both the original and the newly-discovered.

In a way, it’s an improvement from a year ago. I recall my purpose a lot faster than I used to and without having to sustain a focused effort. But it’s still bothersome that I forget it in the first place.

A more problematic variation of this occurred the other night when we were out to dinner with friends. We were at an Asian restaurant that had a unique style of serving your dinner. They didn’t serve everyone at once. Instead, they served each order as soon as the cooks finished preparing it. As a result, some of us got our main courses first and our appetizers last. Some of us were served quickly and some had a longer wait. If I had to guess, I would say that salads were served the fastest, then came fried foods, and finally noodle dishes that required boiling. And the delivery speed for each was determined by the volume of orders coming in from the other patrons.

We all ordered and soon the food began to arrive. Two of us received our salads first while the others waited. Gradually, more dishes appeared. I was still hungry after I finished my salad and so I tried one of Sally’s chicken wings. Some fried tofu was being passed around and I tried that, too. After a while, I wasn’t hungry anymore.

Finally, the last member of our group was served, but along with his order came a huge bowl of tom yum soup. Nobody claimed it as theirs…until it dawned on me that I had ordered it!

In the half hour between ordering it and its being served, I had completely forgotten all about it. If I had remembered, I never would have sampled all those other dishes.

So that’s the bad news.

The good news is that I’ve noticed an improvement in another domain: remembering names. You might recall that I was having difficulty with that task back in April (“The Name Game”). Now names of people from my past seem to be cropping up in my head without a lot of effort. And when I do try to come up with a name, it seems to be within easy reach.

So what does all this add up to? I’ll be damned if I know!

The promise of a brain-healthy lifestyle is that it will slow the progression of cognitive decline. Around 40% of dementias can be prevented in this way, or so the research suggests. Another way of looking at it is to say that your rate of cognitive atrophy is slowed to the point that you die from other causes before you qualify for a diagnosis of dementia. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not complaining. Dying before you dement is a good thing!

What’s more, the research doesn’t say how long you have to be implementing the 5 Pillars before you see tangible results. Some studies have a 6-month time frame while others measure the impact of lifetime habits. 

And since we don’t know what my cognitive status would have been had I not changed my habits six months ago, we can’t really measure the success/failure of the program.

And so my journey continues… 

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