I found an absolute gem in the TED talk “What you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s?”. The speaker, a neuroscientist, explained the current theory of the cause of Alzheimer’s disease in an easy to understandable way (‘amyloid plaque buildup in the neural synapses’). She was quick to point out that there is no cure or even ‘disease-modifying treatment’ for the disease. Not to despair though. In the video, she gave us tips on how to help prevent getting to the ‘tipping point’ when clinical symptoms for the disease start to surface. Here are some quotes from the talk:
‘Deep sleep is like a power cleanse for the brain.’
That is easy.
‘Aerobic exercise has been shown in many studies to decrease amyloid beta in animal models of the disease.’
A bit harder, but certainly doable.
What is most aspiring to me was her last point.
‘Every time we learn something new, we are creating and strengthening new neural connections, new synapses.’
The idea is to build up a high level of ‘cognitive reserve’ such that even though we continue to lose functional synapses, we have enough backup to not cross the threshold for triggering the disease.
Not everything you do will contribute to the reserve. The keyword is NEW.
‘You don’t want to simply retrieve information you’ve already learned, because this is like traveling down old, familiar streets, cruising neighborhoods you already know. You want to pave new neural roads. Building an Alzheimer’s-resistant brain means learning to speak Italian [any new language, for me, it is español], meeting new friends, reading a book, or listening to a great TED Talk.’
In other words, live healthy, be active and engaged in life, learn new things, go new places, make new friends. That life looks pretty good to me. It is fun, and interesting, and something you can do today and every day.
The alternative is to helplessly worry about this horrible and incurable disease that may one day rear its ugly head and wreak havoc on our brain.
Join me in choosing life.