Coffee, tooth paste and apples…








Dear Mom,

When Dad was first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you wished we knew what could have been done to prevent it. Now that you have dementia, I wish the same thing. Many of my generation are wondering about their parents’ Alzheimer’s and dementia… and what it suggests about their own futures. One good friend, Helen Armstrong, recently sent me information about some new findings.

Gary Small, M.D., director of the UCLA Center on Aging, says, “The idea that Alzheimer’s is entirely genetic and unpreventable is perhaps the greatest misconception about the disease. He compares Alzheimer’s to heart disease and cancer, which can be developed over decades and influenced by cholesterol, blood pressure, depression, education, nutrition and sleep, etc.

There are simple things we all can do to reduce our chances of Alzheimer’s. The big one that you and Dad did NOT do, Mom, was drink 3-5 cups of coffee each day. You  both loved the smell of coffee brewing, but your stomachs didn’t like the effects of drinking coffee. Even now, when I visit you each month and sneak in my own big mugs of coffee to heat in the microwave early the next morning, you sniff and smile at the smell but don’t want even a sip.

A second preventative suggestion is to floss and brush your teeth daily to discourage the inflammation in a  diseased mouth from traveling to the brain. (Teeth brushing was always big at our house, though I remember arguing about the flossing.)

A third suggestion is to nurture the thousands of new brain cells we have each day with aerobic exercise, brisk walks, eating salmon and other fatty fish, and treating vitamin B deficiency. Oh-oh, in Kansas we didn’t eat much salmon—certainly not fresh—but we did take our vitamins, and you walked Fritz (or rather, he walked you).

This next suggestion you’ll like, Mom: drink apple juice to push production of the “memory chemical” acetylcholine. That’s the way the popular Alzheimer’s drug Aricept works, according to Thomas Shea, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts. A suggested dose for humans is 16 ounces of real juice (not apple-flavored drink) or 2-3 apples per day.

A final example I chose supports your rule when we were growing up: “Cokes and other soft drinks are only for very special occasions.”  Studies now confirm that sodas, especially those sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, make lab animals dumb and aren’t good for humans either. But adult women who drink one glass of red wine each day are helping their brains with the antioxidants.

Hmm. Wish we’d known some of this a decade ago, Mom. But as Dad often said, “Hindsight is always 20/20 vision.” We did the best we could then, and even though you and Dad didn’t drink coffee or wine, our family ate meals together, talking and laughing and serving seconds of garden-grown vegetables and beef  purchased from 4-H carefully-raised cattle. And every Sunday night we watched TV together, eating a meal of fresh-popped pop corn and mounds of sliced apples. You did the best you could with what you knew about good health, and you and Dad stirred in huge quantities of love and common sense. Thanks to you both, Mom.   Love, Marylin


Jean Carper’s book, 100 SIMPLE THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S AND AGE-RELATED MEMORY LOSS (Little, Brown), contains helpful and specific suggestions for adults, children, families.




Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, spending time with kids

24 responses to “Coffee, tooth paste and apples…

  1. Ah Marylin, ‘if only’ and your Dad was right about hindsight, Oh did i tell you that the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society have an office in my office block, I’ve pointed them in the direction of your blog too

    Well, with a bit ofd luck I should be OK as I have most of those suggestions covered and Ishbel def has the red wine one covered … and some LoL

    The brain cells should get a good work out today as off to Northampton, about 2 hours drive (for me about 3 as I have matured now!!!!!) for a b-b-q and all five grand kids are there with assorted others…. so The Clown aka grand dad will end upa as the entertainer, as his big belly doubles as the trampoline, and the target for the water pistols and the ………

    If I survive, catch you later … have a great Sunday xxxx

    BTW Julia – give her love today (if you can stop laughing at her post – bad tom)

    • Thanks for passing this on to the UK Alzheimer’s, Tom. I’m sure they’ve got MUCH more information than I do, but we’re all in this together. Ishbel and I are on the same prevention plan LoL. Have fun with your grandkids and water fights today. We’re taking our two to go “school clothes” shopping.

  2. juliabarrett

    Alzheimer’s is so tough. In my line of work (hospice) when patients say they’d rather die of Alzheimer’s I say, no, you wouldn’t. I think the reasons for the disease are many and varied. I do not believe, other than in the case of early onset dementia, it is necessarily genetic.

  3. Thanks, Julia. With a dad who died of Alzheimer’s and a mom with advanced dementia, I don’t want to believe it’s genetic, either.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. I think it helps to control that fear of “someday” to have things one can do.

  5. Wow, super interesting piece. Coffee? How about tea? We do not drink coffee but consume copious amounts of tea. Apple juice and too many apples would be bad for blood sugar. So everything is a trade off these days when it comes to health…no perfect solutions!

    • I went back and looked up teas, and supposedly black teas accomplish nearly the same thing, and potent green teas were helpful, too. Like you, I wondered about the daily quantities of apples and/or apple juice and doubt I’d consume those amounts. When in doubt, moderation is my first fall-back response. Thanks for the good questions, and if you find better answers, please share!

  6. Molly

    This is a great blog, Mom….I suppose you wanting me to cut back on soda (Pepsi) has a hidden reason, huh? Well I am working on it. Hopefully people can follow some of these preventative measures and then not have to go through what Grandma and Grandpa do/did.

    Great information!!

  7. Willow


    Willow from Missouri. This summer I took some classes about Early Child Development, and may of the things that you wrote about were covered in my class (except for the coffee)! Very interesting. I wonder what other things are out there that people can do to try and avoid these two totally horrible diseases. Perhaps other people can post things that they have heard to do.

  8. Hi, Willow. It’s always so good to hear from you and your family. The Early Child Development classes sound great, and I’m not surprised they’re already proactive to prevent/diminish Alzheimer’s dangers down the road. The suggestions for children I’ve found include protecting little people’s heads from injuries in sports or accidents, and instilling an early love of learning and reading to keep minds active. If you learn more, Willow, please share it with us!

  9. Hugs, Marylin, not only to you and your family but especially to your Mum and Dad. Take care. Ralph

  10. Well, so far so good! Except I don’t drink that much apple juice, but that’s not a problem, I can include that on our next grocery shopping trip. We like apple juice in this house!
    My dad has been diagnosed with dementia, but you’d never know it. Like most elderly people, the memory isn’t what it used to be, but if you need your house rewired, he can do that in a NY Minute!
    Thanks for subscribing to my blog! And you’ve got a new one as well!

    • Thank you, Irene; I enjoy your blog very much. I’m still smiling that, in spite of your dad’s dementia, he an rewire a house “in a NY Minute.” My mom can’t remember who I am most of the time, and she often calls my brother by her brother’s name, but she can tell you how she used to make buttermilk biscuits!

  11. I am sorry for your parents’ health. However, this is a very good post. I didn’t know any of this. I did know about keeping the brain active. Coffee? Who would have thought. It makes me way hyper if I have more than one cup though. I wonder if decaf works? Apple juice…high in fructose…but fresh apples….wow. I love how nature can keep us healthy. I do walk and eat salmon. Wonderful post. 🙂

  12. I love the blend of quirky humor and solid reality in your blog and am glad you stopped by! You have taught me, and all your readers, so much about Asperger’s. Thank you.

  13. Thanks for visiting my blog.
    And thanks for the ideas for staying healthy. I am pretty good at doing most of them but always good to be reminded.
    Definitely a NO SODA drinker. I have seen too many friends consume several a day. 😦

  14. Ok apples, here I where did I put them?

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