Life is interesting only until we are ignorant of what awaits us. Getting a preview of a movie helps us decide whether it’s worth watching the movie or not but do we desire a preview of our life too to decide whether it’s worth living or not? The very idea of it sounds terrorizing. The different stages of life offer surprises and shocks to each of us as we move in and move out of them. Individuals look forward to every phase of life with positivity and hope-both of which are crucial for human survival.
Life takes a U Turn
Marriage is an important stage in every person’s life as it changes many-a-people’s lifestyles and their outlook. Couples look forward to having kids after marriage and the joy expressed in a mum/dad’s face right after the little one is born is irreplaceable. Right after birth every mom’s first concern is to ensure that her child is healthy both mentally and physically. Physically it’s possible to check for body parts, features and organ functioning. But mentally how is it possible to check a newborn infant. Crying after birth is a simple sign that the infant is like every other baby born, hearing skills can be checked by the physician and ensuring a normal eyesight too is possible to quite an extent. But cognitive skills are an area that can never be ensured upon until the child grows gradually.
Parents love to spend as much time as possible with their little one and the newborn too responds to all the attention with giggles and gurgles. While all seems to be going good sometimes after the infant’s sixth month of birth things start taking a roundabout and development of the child starts sulking. When the concerned parents visit the pediatrician, the child is diagnosed with Rett’s syndrome.
Rett syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder that mostly affects girls. This is misdiagnosed as autism, cerebral palsy or global developmental delay as it is characterized by normal early development but followed by a decline in normal growth, loss of hand coordination and movement, delayed brain development, common occurrence of seizures, improper head growth and problems with walking. Even before serious symptoms are visible after 6-8 months of birth there might be occurrences of syndrome-related symptoms earlier too. This includes loss of muscle tone (hypotonia), feeding difficulties, awkward limb movements, improper crawling and reduced eye contact. Later, mental and physical symptoms start occurring and the child even loses the ability to speak. Autism-related symptoms such as walking on toes, grinding teeth, hyperventilation, cognitive disabilities and seizures are commonly observed in children with Rett syndrome.
The syndrome is best described in four stages for clarity and understanding.
Stage 1: Known as early onset it begins when the child is between 6 and 18 months of age. There are signs of slowing development such as less eye contact, delays observed at every stage of development such as sitting and crawling, decreased head growth and hand wriggling.
Stage 2: Known as rapid destructive stage it begins when the child is between 1 and 4 years of age. Loss of purposeful hand skills, language problems, repeated clasping of hands, clapping them or bringing them to the mouth is seen but these disappear once the baby falls asleep. Similar to autism, some children display lack of interest in social interaction and speech. Breathing difficulties, hyperventilation and walking problems are also seen.
Stage 3: Known as pseudostationary stage this begins between 2 and 10 years of age and many girls remain in this stage for years together. Seizures, motor deficits and apraxia (this is the most disabling symptom which includes inability to perform motor functions thereby leading to disturbed body movements) are noticed during this stage. Its also the stage during which signs of crying, irritability and autism-like disorders decline while alertness, interest in people and things around, communication and attention span increase.
Stage 4: Known as late motor deterioration stage, this lasts for years together or even decades. Rigidity, decreased mobility, muscle weakness, inability to walk and scoliosis (development of a spinal curve where the spine begins to move left or right) are observed. Communication and brain development don’t worsen any further while repetitive hand movement might improve.
Most cases in the syndrome are caused by a genetic mutation in the MECP2 gene found in the X chromosome. This gene is bestowed with the work of producing the MeCP2 protein that is required for brain development. The protein is not produced in the right quantities and the gene does not function properly thereby leading to Rett syndrome. This disease is not hereditary and almost 99% cases occur spontaneously. The effect of the syndrome varies depending on the type of mutation, location and severity of the mutation. It is common that two girls with the same mutation and of the same age express the syndrome differently.
Rett syndrome is diagnosed based on the child’s symptoms and a genetic blood test can also help in identifying the genetic mutation. This syndrome affects 1 of every 10,000 to 15,000 female births.
There is no cure for Rett syndrome and physicians and parents primarily focus on managing the symptoms. A combination of occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy provided can help the kid with feeding, dressing and walking. Medications are prescribed to control seizures and hyperventilation. Nutrition support might be needed to manage weight of the affected kid. Dietitians and nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com can help in this process where the child is given a proper diet that takes care of nutrition needs as well as prevents weight gain.
There are challenges associated with the disease and the patient needs 24*7 support for surviving. But these kids brim with emotions and can understand information shared with them. Its only that they can neither reciprocate their understanding nor convey the message across to the other person. With love, care, support, therapy and help these children can attend school, learn from activities and communities and lead a meaningful life in some way.
Post-lunch classes are a dreadful affair as we are in a half-awake state mostly. The teacher’s voice is like the lullaby song making us drift off to sleep despite being it our most-liked subject. A young child is like a bottle of energy with a cork over it. Open it and the energy is dispensed throughout but have it closed and you reap no benefits. It’s until the age of five that a kid’s brain develops more than any other time in life and development that happens during this period has a greater impact on the child’s learning skills later in life. During those later years do you know what else helps to boost productivity and enhance test results? Its none other than exercise.
Exercising your Right to Exercise
Exercising is every one’s cup of tea believe me or not. This statement might seem ridiculous but when you look into it from a wider perspective, I am sure all of you are going to vouch for it. But it also depends on what you consider as exercising. If shaking your legs at the Zumba club or running on the treadmill is the only exercise you are aware of, then I am sorry. Exercising is basically anything that helps you move around, break a sweat or two and improves your energy levels. For kids it might be jumping on the bed, for teens it might be playing with a ball and for adults it might be walking or jogging. Exhaustive forms of exercise are taken up by those who have a definite target/goal in their mind such as weight loss or muscle buildup. Exercising is integral for overall physical and mental wellness (Yes, mind and body wellness though exercise is achievable and for more details on this please visit the website www.firsteatright.com) and schools nowadays insist on each of its student participating in some sporting activity for the benefit of the body. But what about the perks of exercising in between two different periods?
Our teachers don’t support us in petty chats that happen in between class sessions or even between two periods. So, how are they going to respond when they find you shaking your hips, rotating your necks or jumping on your feet before a test or an examination? Maybe they would become hysteric and order you to get out of the class? But maybe after reading this article your teacher is going to give you a thumbs up sign on such activities as the latest research tells that a student gives his/her best during tests or examinations when he/she exercises at his/her own pace rather than undergoing an ordeal of exhaustive exercises.
The Test that’s Going to Change your Approach Towards Tests
The study involved more than 11,000 school students on whom the research was conducted. We have heard of imparting simple physical activities in between classes to improve a child’s concentration and learning abilities but there are no conclusive evidences supporting them and also the kind of exercises that go well with these children. So, these students were asked to answer questions on how happy and awake they were before they took up some attention and memory task on the computer. All the children took the tasks twice-before and after participating in three different outdoor activities that were of different intensities:
The day starts with energy and positivity when an individual experiences a good night’s sleep. Youngsters have prioritized adequate sleep hours at the bottom of the list owing to today’s lifestyle practices and distractions. This has greatly reduced their sleeping hours and affected quality of sleep too. Research has come up with numerous advantages linked with a good night’s sleep and there is yet another study that has found a clear link between sleep and nutrition. Sleep and sugar consumption are inversely proportional to each other according to this study.
The team involved 42 healthy participants who were sleeping for less than 7 hours daily. They were given an electronic device that required attachment to the wrist while sleeping and the team also requested the participants to note down their sleep and wake timings in 7-day sleep diaries alongside their food consumption. After this, each of the participants was randomly split into either of the two groups-sleep extension group (21 participants) and control group (21 participants). Participants included in the sleep extension group were given a sleep consultation session to improve their sleep timings by 1-1.5 hours every night. The second group were not given any advice and were made to sleep as per their regular schedule.
After 30 days the research team found that members of the sleep extension group increased their time in bed by 55 min, sleep period by 47 minutes and sleep duration by 21 minutes. All these helped members of this group meet the daily requirements of between 7 and 9 hours of sleep. Such a difference was not prevalent in the control group but participants in the other group reported decline in quality of sleep. That could be because the participants were in bed for a longer time without sleeping. Individuals who were given advice on sleeping also exhibited decreased sugar consumption compared to control group. Fat and carbohydrate consumption levels were also much reduced but not seen as significantly as sugar levels.
This study shows the clear relationship between sleep and nutrition by means of sugar consumption levels. Hence, sleep not only improves cognition and activeness but also plays an integral role in affecting our nutrition too. Sleep for at least 7-8 hours every night, go to bed without a smartphone and above all, ensure to get quality sleep. It is also essential to go to bed and wakeup at the same time every day to maintain your circadian rhythm which is crucial for a fit body and a healthy mind. Read more about circadian rhythm and how this can affect a person’s health from the website www.firsteatright.com.
All older adults have one wish in common-to be as healthy as possible and make a visit to the doctor as infrequently as possible. Ironically, both these wishes are not granted in many people’s case as wishing for good health is not too much to ask for but there is a compulsive need to understand that granting these wishes are not magical. “As you sow, so shall you reap” remains unshaken here too. It makes no sense to pray for a healthy ageing process when your younger years were filled with binge eating practices, no-exercise weeks and an unhealthy lifestyle. The body’s metabolism and energy are maximized during younger years, bone health reaches its peak by the age of 30 after which the body starts using the stored bone density and functioning of other organs too depend on the food you eat and the exercise you do. So, if your younger years were filled with healthy routines maybe you would be good enough to minimize your health risks but if otherwise, you are in for a toss!
We are well-aware that cognitive skills decline and the risk for dementia increases as a person grows old but what we miss out is the fact that here too, our use of brain skills, activeness quotient and exercise routines play an integral role in deciding our risk of dementia.
Hypertension’s Effect on Cognition
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which people face difficulties in thinking, remembering and reasoning than what’s normal for people their age. This can never be on par with dementia and its side effects on the human mind and body which is grueling and frustration. But MCI can be considered as a precursor to dementia. Maybe, something similar to a prediabetes stage where this exists as a precursor to diabetes.
High blood pressure remains a top threat to mankind in terms of not only ruining a person’s physical fitness but also makes the individual take stress and affect the mind’s ability to calm down. Hypertension exists as the gateway to stroke, heart diseases and kidney failure too. Proving to be the ‘silent killer’ any person with high BP is always at an increased risk of cognitive impairment and dementia later in life. While there are various studies supporting this theory there are none proving that control of blood pressure levels reduces the risk of dementia. To prove this, the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) was organized. This was a large, randomized trial that took into comparison both, an intensive blood pressure control (systolic reading of less than 120 mmHg) and a standard target (systolic pressure of less than 140 mmHg). All the participants were aged above 50 years with high risk for cardiovascular problems but were devoid of any history of stroke or diabetes at the start of the trial. The study started in Nov 2010 and until March 2013 almost 9,300 participants were assigned to either intensive or standard treatment.
Results showed that there were fewer cases of dementia diagnosed in the intensive treatment group than the standard treatment group (149 vs 176) but what keeps us doubting is the fact that there was no clear demarcation to prove whether this happened by chance or not.
There was a concept simultaneously tried on the participants called as SPRINT Memory & Cognition in Decreased Hypertension (SPRINT MIND). The core of the concept was that it wanted to know whether intensive blood pressure control could reduce the risk of developing dementia and MCI. While the study on BP management guidelines stopped earlier than expected, MCI and dementia were explored for the complete term of five years. And, because the BP management intervention was stopped sooner than expected all the participants received treatment for a shorter period than originally planned.
Intensive treatment also benefitted the brain as it reduced the risk of MCI by 20%. Preventive measures for heart health, diabetes and cancer have improved dramatically during recent times. We hope that similar interventions for protecting ourselves against dementia or at least reduce the risk as much as possible become a reality sooner or later in life. Controlling the disease even before risk factors appear and throwing them down the gutter is essential to lead a heathy life. Meanwhile, individuals should focus on minimizing their BP risks, take precautious steps to maintain blood pressure levels, set up goals and try ways to fulfill these goals. There are diets such as the DASH diet that have been specifically designed for controlling high BP levels. Dietitians & nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com can help you control your elevated blood pressure levels with the help of a proper diet plan and exercise routine suiting your body requirements.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.