- Mental Health»
Exercise the brain to help in preventing Alzheimer's disease: Fun and simple ways
Much like any adults, I have a few seniors in my personal circle who are
ages 70s and up. Aside from my diabetic aunt, who seems to be in
constant care of EMTs and emergency room nurses, these seniors are quite
active in business and retirement. My dad, for example, is a retired
financial auditor and is now heavily into gardening. He's normally
awake by 6 AM to cut grass, trim hedges, plant tomato, fruits and
vegetables in his garden.
Another example is the 80-something year old executive director of the business chamber that I often work with. Still another is a late-70-year old advisory board member of the non-profit organization that I co-found. The latter gentleman keeps himself active day-to-day. Sometimes, he drives solo for a two-hour ride to Palm Springs on business.
From time to time, just by having conversations with my senior friends and relatives, I get an insight on their fears and concerns. Or at least, things they are thinking about. Common among the topics is Alzheimer's disease, a brain disorder known for causing memory losses, typically associated with aging. The conversation usually springs up as they relate to me someone they know who has it, just got it, or died with it.
1) Rewiring your brain to help prevent Alzheimer's disease
One of my senior friends, the most health nut of them all, talks about
his self-study on brain exercises and other ways of preventing
Alzheimer's disease. Many of his references come from the PBS documentary on the brain, which I've seen and
liked a lot.
I take away one thing from that PBS documentary:
The brain can be rewired by doing something different than what your body normally does.
Hence, try learning how to write with the other hand or throw a baseball or a frisbee with the other arm. Those are the easy ones. It forces the brain, hand, and eye coordination to "rewire" themselves. This is not an unusual observation. Something like this is performed in muscle building where repetitious workouts are adjusted so that the same muscles are not working all the time.
2) Learning a new language: Lessons from The Nun Study
The Nun Study is a project on aging and Alzheimer's
disease that is being conducted at the University of Minnesota It began
in the 80s after Dr. David Snowdon and his associates posited that the
homogenous lifestyle of nuns, coupled with their written archives,
created a near-ideal databank for studying the effects of aging and the
The pool of volunteer nuns made up a living database that spans decades of observable materials. Researchers are able to ask questions and observe elderly nuns about their personal experience and cross-check information for accuracy from their written journals that were stored in the convent archives.
An article in Time magazine on the Nun Study suggests a correlation between how many languages are learned and brain disease. "[T]he young women who had more sophisticated language skills — defined as the density of ideas per every 10 written words — were far less likely to suffer from Alzheimer's or dementia five, six or seven decades later."
So perhaps, it's finally time to learn Spanish, as I've often said I wanted to do many times before.
Another potential way to ward off Alzheimer's is through constant brain exercises using puzzles and brain
teasers. I went through a phase of doing these when I was young. I
believe I was in 6th grade when I subscribed to a monthly games and
puzzle magazine. It's a self-disciplining, self-challenging pursuit.
Crossword puzzles and Sudoku are popular. Since the advent of the Internet and digital handhelds, puzzles and brain teasers are easily accessible at the push of a few buttons. The one I've seen and like is the Nintendo Dreamsphere (DS). It has the Brain Age game for about $20 USD on Amazon.
The Apple iPhone also has various puzzles and brain training programs in their App Store. I'm sure that other smartphones, such as Google's Android, will get around to it.