FrankA wrote:I’m a recently retired professor of computer science and software engineering at Montana Tech...the diagnosis was “mild cognitive impairment”. Also, my MRI showed atrophy in most of the regions of my brain... Although my wife and I have a reasonably healthy diet by American standards, going keto would be a big change... I also increased my weekly physical exercise and started daily cognitive improvement brain training. So far the results appear to be positive, but diet is still a challenge...About two years ago I was diagnosed with “severe apnea” and put on a CPAC machine.
What I’m looking for on this web site is other people’s experience with moving to a keto diet. I also like to hear how others are fighting cognitive decline. I'm also interested in discussions about on the science of Alzheimer's
Anyone who has managed to maintain an active career in the field of computer science and software engineering for decades has passed the "cognitive reserve" predictor of delayed progression of Mild Cognitive Impairment with an A+!
You don't mention whether your doctor tested for ApoE 4, but some studies suggest that people who are diagnosed with MCI after the age of 75 are qualitatively different, and may have a slower progression of disease, than those diagnosed in the 65-74 year old range. (Sorry, I can't put my finger on that result right now.) Your post indicates that you have extremely fluent language, reasoning, evaluation and synthesis skills, and that you have executive function skills of planning, organizing, making goals and identifying steps to achieve those goals, measuring task management and viewing information with a schema to decide its validity. All of those would suggest that in spite of delays in what I would guess are primarily processing speed of recall, speed and accuracy of new learning of word or number sequences, and spatial orientation or visual memory for complex figures, you have a rich store of memory and the ability to use multiple regions of your brain to support high level functioning.
One area that you are already supporting is exercise. You may want to try your own version of the protocol used in the study below. People with MCI showed improved verbal fluency after a 12-week program of doing 30 minutes of moderate-intensity treadmill walking 4 times per week. Interestingly, they also showed reduced
blood cerebral blood flow.
UMD study finds exercise benefits brains, changes blood flow in older adults
Dr. Smith explains that for those beginning to experience subtle memory loss, the brain is in "crisis mode" and may try to compensate for the inability to function optimally by increasing cerebral blood flow. While elevated cerebral blood flow is usually considered beneficial to brain function, there is evidence to suggest it may actually be a harbinger of further memory loss in those diagnosed with MCI. The results of the study by Dr. Smith and his team suggest exercise may have the potential to reduce this compensatory blood flow and improve cognitive efficiency in those in the very early stages of Alzheimer's Disease.
This recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association:Neurology may give you hope, since it profiles another highly educated professional who, six years after a diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer's disease, is still living a fulfilling life. Early Awareness of Alzheimer Disease: A Neurologist’s Personal Perspective
As someone who worked with many children and their families affected by traumatic brain injury, I came to believe that "build on strengths to work around weaknesses" was the first commandment. If spatial navigation is difficult, use GPS in the car, on walks, etc. If word recall is sometimes glitchy, use "circumlocation"--talk about the person, the event "You know, our former President" works just as well as "President Obama". "Let's go to that place where we stayed last summer" works just as well as "Let's go back to Sedona". If immediate recall is an issue, use voice memos or make lists. Repeat the gist to people immediately: "Let me see if I got all of that: You're heading out tomorrow for Asheville, and probably won't be back until June due to work." It allows you to "rehearse" the key details and to get corrections. All of us do better with successive repetitions, and if you can figure out what visual or association tricks help your memory even better. If you forget what is on the calendar for next week, put a calendar app on your phone and check the next week's schedule along with today's schedule. (Full disclosure: my husband, who has an encyclopedic memory for books and movies, routinely forgets whether we're babysitting out grandkids this Thursday or next Thursday. Always has; probably always will. Since I have always had a good memory for dates and no memory for movies; we're two halves of a good brain. Sometimes it's okay to stake out the territory you excel at and cede some territory to a spouse, or an app. )
At the age of 67, I am more comfortable also staking out what I am likely able to do with my remaining time, and what I am not. For you that may mean you have the ability to go full in on some of Dr. Bredesen's recommendations, like a 3-hour window of fasting before bedtime and a 12-hour fast between dinner and breakfast, and added healthy fats, more berries, a rainbow variety of veggies, without giving up some foods that hold strong family traditions or personal comfort. Give yourself permission to reach the low-hanging fruit first, and monitor your results both on biomarkers and how you feel. And enjoy life in some way you could not while you were tied to an academic calendar!
Best wishes for continued purpose and joy in life.