Cognitive Impairment and Dementia Protection

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Maintaining Cognitive Vitality

by Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, CTP, CMC, A.C.T, MCC, SCAC

treadmill_GreenSuit“A mind equipped with a wide range of
previously formed
pattern recognition devices
can withstand the effects of neuroerosion
for a long time.”

~ Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg, PhD, from
The Wisdom Paradox 

Our Worst Nightmare

How we hate the idea of losing our
hottie-bodies as we get older!

But that’s not the worst of it.

Probably the most frightening thing — for most of us old enough to truly understand that we will not live forever, anyway — is the idea that we might lose control of our MINDS as we age.

What strikes fear in our hearts is that we’ll lose the links to words, places, our fondest memories, the names of our children — the very things that define our sense of SELF.

Those who have lived with cognitive decline in an up close and personal fashion (in particular, the ravages of any of the dementias in a loved one), frequently report a back-of-the-mind concern that they are looking into a mirror of their future selves.

The first wave of Baby Boomers – that spike in the population statistics once Johnny came marching home from World War II – turned 65 last year.


With the third-act aging of more and more of the Boomers, this conversation will become more and more frequent, as those back-of-the-mind concerns rise to conscious awareness.

Take a D-E-E-P breath — you don’t HAVE to lose it as you age!!

Heads up younger readers: I know you wouldn’t wait until the day before the marathon to train for it. Same thing with healthy brain aging!

You can’t wait until decline begins to start doing anything about it if you want to experience the rosy finish you could expect if you begin to employ neuro-protective techniques NOW

(Some good news for the Boomers coming up, by the way –
it’s not too late to start turning things around!

This article announces a new Series, explaining the functional trajectory of the healthy late-life brain, and debunking of the myth of “to be expected” age-related cognitive decline.

Those of you who are currently struggling to fit into a neurotypical mold will find a lot of information that will help you develop effective you-specific strategies to work around some of the things that give you fits and shut you down.

WHAT, not Why

Let’s start with what is lost when a loved-one begins the slide into dementia, what might be referred to as a list of symptoms.

The Mayo Clinic staff has posted the list below in the Dementia section of their website.
Let’s start there.

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Inability to learn or remember new information
  • Difficulty with planning and organizing
  • Difficulty with coordination and motor functions
  • Personality changes
  • Inability to reason
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Paranoia
  • Agitation
  • Hallucinations


Those of you who are following the Sleep Struggles Series might recognize that list as almost identical to some of the problems with chronic sleep deprivation.

With a bit of tweaking of terms (from the “impossible” end of the spectrum toward the ” struggles with” shades of darkness), those of you who are recovering from Traumatic Brain Injury [TBI] will recognize that list of symptoms as what you have been observing in your own behavior since your brain was injured.

Hey ADDers (and all of you who can’t recall a time when you weren’t dealing with what I refer to as Attentional Spectrum Dysregulations) — does anything on that list look familiar to YOU?

Does that mean that cognitive decline is already announcing itself as inevitable?

Not necessarily.

As we are learning from the oft-cited School Sisters of Notre Dame “Nun” Study — the longitudinal study of aging and Alzheimer’s disease funded by the National Institute on Agingeven some of those individuals discovered, on autopsy, to have what used to be accepted as “the Alzheimer’s identifiers” (senile plaques and neurofibrillary tangles), managed to escape the behavioral devastation of the disease.

Others had only recently begun to exhibit signs of mental decline in the year or two before their deaths (at 80 and beyond), despite brains that would have predicted a significantly earlier onset of dementia.

Along with hundreds of others in their order, these nuns had volunteered for a long-term study of aging and Alzheimer’s disease, hoping to provide evidence that might be used to teach the rest of us how to escape the worst ravages of this heartbreaking illness.

Thanks to their generosity of spirit, we know a lot more about it than we did, even five years ago.

About the Nun Study



The Nun Study is a unique resource for the study of brain diseases in the elderly. Going on seventeen years now, it was begun as a pilot study in 1986 by David Snowdon, Ph.D., with his colleagues at the University of Minnesota.

Using data collected from an order of nuns living in Mankato, Minnesota (the School Sisters of Notre Dame), they hoped to answer the following question:

“What factors in early, mid, and late life
increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease
and other brain diseases such as stroke?”

With additional data from the 1990 expansion of the study to include six additional Notre Dame administrative centers (St. Louis, Baltimore, Milwaukee, Chicago, Dallas, and Wilton CT.), what is coming up in the analysis of the data is the answer to another, even more important question:

  • What factors in early, mid, and late life seem to REDUCE the risk
    of Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases?
  • They are also in the process of analyzing cognitive factors that seem to determine longevity as well as quality of life.
  • Data, tissue, and genetic material collected in this landmark study will, no doubt,
    prove valuable to a great many meta-studies long into the future.

As explained on the Study’s website, FAQs linked HERE, there are 678 participating nuns.

When the study began, they were 75 to 102 years old, with an average age of  83. Over 85 percent were teachers.

  • They represented a wide range of “oldsters” — from sisters in their 90s, highly functional with full-time jobs, to those twenty years younger who exhibited signs of severe cognitive disability, some bedridden, others barely able to communicate.
  • Each agreed to participate in yearly assessments of cognitive and physical functionality, including medical exams with blood sampling to supply data for genetic and nutritional studies.
  • They all agreed to donate their brains after their deaths, to be autopsied for neuropathologic studies.
  • In addition, they granted full and ongoing access to the convent archives for data to help determine, “accurate risk factor data spanning the entire lifespan of the participants.”

snap_Johnny_automatic_OpenClipArtThe archives include “baptismal records, birth certificates, socioeconomic characteristics of the family, education documentation, autobiographies written in early, mid, and late life, as well as residential, social, and occupational data describing their mid and late lives.”

“The convent archives are particularly useful . . . because they contain . . . accurate information on early and mid-life risk factors [that is] difficult or impossible to obtain in most other studies on Alzheimer’s disease because individuals with this memory disorder cannot accurately recall their history.”

So what does all this indicate?

Other than the timeliness of the topic, and the fact that biology doesn’t HAVE to be destiny, science is not exactly sure.

  • There is a great deal of speculation, and a few conflicting theories.
  • There is ALSO quite a bit of agreement over what is likely to be helpful
    (even though we’re not exactly sure why just yet).

We need to take a closer look at what’s going on up there in our brains to understand what goes wrong when our minds start to go — AS WELL AS how we can keep them healthy and vital as we age.

What THIS Series is designed to cover

Learning about what science has recently discovered about HOW your brain does what it does at different points in the human life-cycle will help you Learn how to drive the very brain you were born with – even if it’s taken a few hits in the meantime™”

I plan to summarize more than a few resources that I have tripped across in my own study of brain-based content, information that those of you who stick with the series will LOVE me for sharing.

Let me be your “content concentrator” on this topic (and others) — kind of a “Cliff Notes” resource (with links to more, for those of you who have time to explore on your own). I am sharing what I discover AS I work through the process of the book I am writing on the topic.  

If you will leave questions and comments below, I will shape the content to come so that it will illuminate what you are most interested in learning about or understanding FIRST.

Get it NOW, while its free for the taking – and SHARE BACK!

Remember to ring in with your thoughts and information too.
Leave me feedback (likes, stars and
 and help me spread the word
(or I might just change my mind ::grin::)

Graphics Gratitude:
 Man on Treadmill originally found on
LittleNun — JohnnyAutomatic from OpenClipArt 

As always, if you want notification of of new articles – in this Series, or any new posts on this blog  – give your email address to the nice form on the top of the skinny column to the right. (You only have to do this once, so if you’ve already asked for notification about a prior series, you’re covered for this one too). STRICT No Spam Policy

IN ANY CASE, stay tuned.
There’s a lot to know, a lot here already, and a lot more to come – in this Series and in others.
Get it here while it’s still free for the taking.

Want to work directly with me? If you’d like some coaching help (one-on-one,couples or group) with anything that came up while you were reading this article, click HERE for Brain-based Coaching with mgh, with a contact form at its end, or click the E-me link on the menubar at the top of every page. Fill out the form, submit, and an email SOS is on its way to me; we’ll schedule a call to talk about what you need. I’ll get back to you ASAP (accent on the “P”ossible!)

Related articles right here on
(in case you missed them above)

More articles in the Brain-Based Series
(links click ONLY once the article has posted – active links turn red on mouseover) 

Other related Articles on

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What About Brain Training?

BY THE WAY: Since is an Evergreen site, I revisit all my content periodically to update links — when you link back, like, follow or comment, you STAY on the page. When you do not, you run a high risk of getting replaced by a site with a more generous come-from.

About Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC
Award-winning ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching field co-founder; [life] Coaching pioneer -- Neurodiversity Advocate, Coach, Mentor & Poster Girl -- Multi-Certified -- 25 years working with EFD [Executive Functioning disorders] and struggles in hundreds of people from all walks of life. I developed and delivered the world's first ADD-specific coach training curriculum: multi-year, brain-based, and ICF Certification tracked. In addition to my expertise in ADD/EF Systems Development Coaching, I am known for training and mentoring globally well-informed ADD Coach LEADERS with the vision to innovate, many of the most visible, knowledgeable and successful ADD Coaches in the field today (several of whom now deliver highly visible ADD coach trainings themselves). For almost a decade, I personally sponsored and facilitated seven monthly, virtual and global, no-charge support and information groups The ADD Hours™ - including The ADD Expert Speakers Series, hosting well-known ADD Professionals who were generous with their information and expertise, joining me in my belief that "It takes a village to educate a world." I am committed to being a thorn in the side of ADD-ignorance in service of changing the way neurodiversity is thought about and treated - seeing "a world that works for everyone" in my lifetime. Get in touch when you're ready to have a life that works BECAUSE of who you are, building on strengths to step off that frustrating treadmill "when 'wanting to' just doesn't get it DONE!"

8 Responses to Cognitive Impairment and Dementia Protection

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  7. Madelyn, This is a great post! As we are finding many of our friends are dealing with at least one symptom and suddenly they are rattled of how to handle the aging brain. It seems like those who have struggled with brain dysfunction over years take these changes as just another challenge of a lifetime.

    Whereas, with these changes in an unhealthy brain … creates an unsurmountable anxiety for those who believed their brain would never fail them … or they just never thought of it! Brain health is an ongoing process, and starts as we’re younger. It should not start only because of injury, so you can never provide enough education keeping our brains healthy.

    I want to reblog this and I’m also far behind on reading. What is the best way to put this on my site? Thanks for your suggestions.

    Take care and stay safe,


    • Re Reblog: your readers don’t seem to mind the way WordPress reblogs, right? If that is so, simply use it.

      Mine complain because they “get lost” when the format is not “ADD-friendly” (even though what they are really complaining about is the change and the lack of formatting)

      My reblog of your post, for example, put all of the graphics at the END of the article (and I couldn’t edit). With BB’s, the top graphic is great, but my intro was placed at the BOTTOM of the post (brain scramble!) — I can edit MY text, but I can’t even see his.

      I’m not sure the WordPress “youngsters” get what’s wrong with it, so I doubt it will ever really be “fixed” — {ah the arrogance of young brains with unimpaired short term memory!)

      I’m glad you like it — I think it’s an important topic. I’m coming up with some amazing research, etc. (now all I need is TIME to write it along with everything else. ::sigh::



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