‘Oldest Old’ Still Show Alertness
Of all the infirmities people dread in old age, dementia may be the scariest. Many people in their 90’s fear declining mental faculties more than they fear death, researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., have observed.
The mental powers of the oldest old have, until recently, drawn little medical interest, Dr. Boeve said, because doctors have considered dementia not only inevitable, but also untreatable in the last years of life. His findings, published last month in the journal Neurology, challenge that assumption by showing that dementia, when it does occur, progresses as gradually in the 90’s as it does in younger elderly.
New treatments may slow that progression. People whose memories have begun to falter but are otherwise able to think clearly have come under increasing scrutiny. Their condition, described as mild cognitive impairment, or M.C.I., is thought to be a precursor to dementia, often Alzheimer’s disease.
Dr. Boeve and his colleagues, who examined 111 people ages 90 to 99 in Rochester, found that some could be extremely forgetful. They may frequently fail to remember appointments, details of recent conversations or even what they just said. Yet many of those people function well on their own.
Still, some of Dr. Boeve’s patients show no signs of developing any memory loss. Sister Bibiana Lewis, for example, manages her life and seems to think more clearly than many people several generations younger. A 96-year-old retired math and science teacher, she has just published her family’s history, she works the Sunday crossword puzzle in The New York Times each week, she conducts tours of the convent, and she reads excessively, she said.
She attributes her brain power to good genes, healthy living and, especially, daily physical activity. “You can’t sit,” she said. “You have to keep moving.”
Adapted from: http://www.nytimes.com
Dread – temer
Drawn – despertado, atraído
Challenge – desafiar
Elderly – idosos
Scrutiny – investigação cuidadosa
Mild – suave, leve
Impairment – deficiência
Brain – cérebro
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