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Worrying about the glass of wine

22 May 2008
Bonnie Sandler, S.W., The Senior Times - May 2008

Let’s talk about it

In my assessments of individuals with cognitive impairment, I have noticed that many include a history of lifelong struggles with excessive worrying, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and/or depression. This alone is something to worry about. Children of affected parents are concerned about their own future as it is, and now we have more to worry about as we try not to worry, knowing that excessive worrying could be a factor in this disease.

People who have experienced clinical depression are 2.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, according to a study published this April in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology. If depression occurs before age 60, the likelihood increases nearly 4 times. There are several theories as to why this may be, and further studies are expected to explore the relationship between depression and Alzheimer’s.

Recent headlines warned women that drinking a glass of red wine daily might raise their risk of breast cancer. Should we worry? I was happier when I read that there may be constituents in wine that protect against dementia. More confusion. Are we to choose which disease we would most like to prevent? Are these studies causing us more anxiety, therefore putting us at greater risk for Alzheimer’s? Dr. Nathan Hermann, head of geriatric psychiatry at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, cautions that this is only "one of a number of studies" that have examined the issue and that "the literature is very divided on whether depression predisposes to dementia or not, and is seriously flawed methodologically, and there are no firm conclusions that can be made." So he's not stressed about it, but how do the rest of us know when to worry? Short of digging into the entire body of peer-reviewed research ourselves, the best antidote to this kind of news might just be a good Merlot.

We all need to find ways to relax, but it is especially important if we are caregivers living the 36-Hour Day (like the book of the same name). What works for one person may not be the right stress buster for another. I like to relax after a hectic day by having a glass of red wine. I rationalize that it’s good for my health. A hot bubble bath surrounded by candles also works. But does the glass of wine enhance my risk of breast cancer, or prevent dementia and heart disease? Will I worry now about having this glass of wine? Will the worry affect my cognitive functioning as I age? Will I have the opportunity to age if I have the wine?

Tonight, after a stressful day, I plan on having a glass of red wine and treating myself to a long hot bubble bath. I won’t allow myself to worry. I will simply enjoy my personal choice of de-stressing.

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Bonnie Sandler

Residential Real Estate Broker, Housing Consultant for Seniors

514 497-3775