Rona Barrett: Making our gray matter matter

Rona Barrett: Making our gray matter matter



We start with a question and end with a drop of blood.

A question to my female readers: In 25 words or less, what makes your brain stand out and what is most important about it to you?

While your cognitive wheels are grinding, here’s how other women responded.

“My brain contains my essence. It is what makes me, ME. It contains all of my hopes, desires, dreams and memories. It is my compass.” ???                  

“My brain is storing memories to recite to my mother as Alzheimer’s robs her memories.”

These responses, and mine, are posted at  The MY BRAIN Movement was formed to raise awareness that Alzheimer’s is predominantly a women’s disease:

Nearly two-thirds of the 5.2 million U.S. seniors afflicted with Alzheimer’s are women.

A 65-year-old woman’s estimated lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s is twice that of a man.

Sixty percent of the 16 million caring for someone with Alzheimer’s are women.

Strange that awareness needs to be raised about the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.  Actually it would rank higher on the list but it wasn’t until about 15 years ago that new reporting policies permitted listing Alzheimer’s as a cause of death. This significant change in reporting led to more accurate statistics of Alzheimer’s-related deaths resulting in an increase of 68 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Soon Alzheimer’s will meet the definition of an epidemic. Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 that cannot be prevented.  By 2050 the number of 65+ year-olds with Alzheimer’s may nearly triple to 16 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs.

Last month, ironically Alzheimer’s Awareness month, a group of Japanese scientists made a significant breakthrough toward developing a measure to detect signs of Alzheimer’s long before patients show symptoms.  They discovered a cognitive function-destroying protein that accumulates inside the brain in a location that could be the genesis of Alzheimer’s in our bodies.

The way to check for this? Through a lab test from a single drop of blood.

What baffles me is how this trailblazing find that could lead to a cure only made it to the back pages of newspapers and the “oh, by the way” blurbs of some broadcasts.

Granted, nothing will happen immediately. Like most research, this preliminary finding has run into a tsunami of scientific skepticism.  And scientists involved in the discovery are looking at a minimum of five years before they can roll out more conclusive testing.

Until then, the MY BRAIN movement needs our brains to fight Alzheimer’s. Join their effort in having one million women engaging in a national dialogue about this devastating disease and its effect on all our lives.

And speaking of brains, here is my 25-word answer to the question about what is most important about my brain to me:

It is the soul of my existence here and forever more.

Until next time…keep thinking the good thoughts.

Rona Barrett: Wacky Weather, Wacky Bodies and Everything Hurts

Rona Barrett: Wacky Weather, Wacky Bodies and Everything Hurts

gray matters


By Rona Barrett | Published on 01.21.2015 12:30 p.m.

With the weather being as strange as it is — summer one day, winter the next, spring in bloom, then winter once again — we who are advancing through our senior years have a tougher time dealing with this wacky weather than our younger brethren. Let me tell you the kind of phone calls I get from my many friends.

“Is your body going wacky?” a girlfriend said the other morning. “Do you wake up in the middle of the night, three or four times, and have to run to the easement room because your bladder can’t stand it another minute?”

Another barely said hello before she lamented, “I just don’t know what’s wrong with me. I went to the doctor but he couldn’t find a thing wrong. He wasn’t looking in the right places! How can you go to sleep at night feeling fine and the next morning you have this huge lump on your behind? It must be cancer! What am I going to do?”

And still another: “I hurt all over. My knees are just killing me. I can’t stand the thought of having a knee replacement, but it’s so difficult for me to get on my horse these days.”

And this happened just the other day to a friend who is a fine author: “How are you, my friend?”

“Don’t ask. I went to the doctor yesterday and he tells me I’m borderline diabetic. Can I help it if I like ice cream? How could I be diabetic? I only weigh 140 pounds and I’m 4’11”. Do you think I’m fat? And my poor Henry, he woke up yesterday morning and two of his big toes were swollen. The doctor says he has gout.”

“But how’s your new book coming along?

“Oh, thanks for asking,” she says. ‘It’s the only thing that keeps me going. Except I think I’m going to have a heart attack!”

“A heart attack!” I say. “Then what about the book?”

“Oh forget that, I’m too worried about my diabetes.”

In speaking to another person before I could ask how he was he blurts out, “I think I’m going blind. I had cataracts removed and I still can’t see a thing. What’s going on with me?”

What’s going on, my friends, is that we’re advancing in our senior years, and whether you’re a young 65 or mature 85, these are the ailments that begin to happen to all of us — even if we haven’t been sick a day in our lives.

Who am I to say don’t worry about your aches and pains? I have mine. But what I do know is that once you realize you are not alone in your advancement through your senior years, you just say to yourself, “You know what? I’m still here this morning and I’ve survived another night!”

Give yourself a big slap on the back because surviving is the name of the game.

I think Bette Davis said it best: “Getting older ain’t for sissies.”

And for the weather be glad you’re living in the West.

Until next time … keep thinking the good thoughts.

— For more than 30 years, Rona Barrett was a pioneering entertainment reporter, commentator and producer. Since 2000, she has focused her attention and career on the growing crisis of housing and support for our aging population. She is the founder and CEO of the Rona Barrett Foundation, the catalyst behind Santa Ynez Valley’s first affordable senior housing, the Golden Inn & Village. Contact her at[email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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