The latest research on Alzheimer’s hasn’t pulled back many veils about the disease but it has uncovered a few puzzling facts. For example, some people who have the neuron-killing tangles associated with the illness, never display symptoms. Others aren’t so lucky. To explain the difference, theorists have speculated that those least susceptible to the tangles have a larger amount of brain tissue to draw from. What makes the difference in a brain bank’s size may have to do with the amount of education a person has. The more learning, the larger the bank deposit. That’s the theory, at least. But here’s the puzzle. Once the disease starts to display, the brain’s deterioration is faster among those with the greatest education. No one knows why. (“Banking Against Alzheimer’s” by David A. Bennett, Scientific American Mind, July/Aug. 2016, pg. 34.)
That latter fact is no argument against schooling. Staving off the disease for as long as possible is a positive. The best way to do that, apparently, is to learn to play a musical instrument or become bi-lingual. Again, no one understands why these particular activities help, but they do. Having a supportive network of family and friends is an added plus, but toxic relationships, including those with relatives, should be avoided.
Maintaining a purpose in life also adds to the brain bank as does having organizational skills, self-discipline, dependability and a drive toward achievement. (Ibid pg 36.) Being the child of parents who were free of the disease is an obvious advantage. Beyond that, there are habits we can acquire to help ourselves. Eat the MIND DIET which includes fresh fruits, vegetables and fish. (Or for vegetarians, Omega 3 supplements.) Strengthen and maintain social ties; stay active; learn new skills and explore the environment. Above all, chose activities that are goal directed. The idea is to keep moving. Hopefully, that way the “A” word will never catch up with you.