Boomers Health – Disease Prevention Series
Alzheimer’s and Dementia
What are they – and how to minimise symptoms to maximise life enjoyment
For Boomers Health
© Copyright Boomers Club Pty Ltd August 2016
Our brain is the most protected organ; it is encased in a strong bone and has unique blood vessels that strictly control which molecules can enter it. The brain is the most protected organ because it is us. If we believe in a soul or spirit, once the brain is dead it has departed to some other place.
Humans Are Born Dumb
Humans have the largest brain on the planet relative to our body mass – we are also the smartest most innovative creatures on the planet; and we are so because we a born dumb. A foal can walk within minutes of birth, its natural pre-built knowledge. We humans though once, once strong enough, take weeks to learn the task before it becomes automatic.
We learn by observing what it is going on around us, we learn from our environment and others. This means who we become, and what we can do, depends on the environment to which we are born plus accumulated life experiences. It is these experiences and knowledge that Alzheimer’s and Dementia slowly remove over time, and degrade who we are.
How The Brain Learns And Remembers
Our brains are made up of cells called neurons, we have about 100 billion of them. This isn’t many, if each neuron stored a bit of memory then we would not be much smarter than a desktop computer. Neurons though have many tentacles that connect them with others and there are a quadrillion (that’s 1,000,000,000,000,000) of these tentacles. Memories and learning are created by signalling patterns across these connections, the number of potential patterns is too incredible to think about. The greater the number of times a connection pattern is repeated or reinforced by our actions the greater that memory or learning is reinforced and AUTOMATES our actions for us so that we don’t have to think about about them.
Or to put it another way, our brain is more like the internet and Google than it is a computer. If one part of the internet connectivity is broken another will take over, and if one computer storing information busts, the information can be found on another one.
Further Google works to ensure the searches most often used come to the top of the list and are reinforced. When internet connections (tentacles) are broken it is repaired, and broken computers (neurons) are replaced, dead neurons and damaged tentacles are not replaceable. The internet will keep working even when some connections are lost and computers broken, information just has to find another route for the internet to do it’s job for us. Our brain is the same accept that neurons and tentacles can’t be fixed; but another pathway can be found to achieve the same result until too many tentacles and neurons are damaged or dead.
Now most “brain scientists” will quite rightly say this is a gross oversimplification, they would be right; but we are not here to write a textbook on the brain, nor do we have the knowledge to do so.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia damage the tentacles and cause neuronal death. This disrupts signalling patterns that we have become reliant upon; eventually causing us to lose what we have learnt. This is the effect of Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Slowing The Symptoms Without Slowing The Disease.
There are things that we have learned that we repeat often. For instance we learned to walk and once learned we do it forever, we repeat it everyday. The neural connection patterns required to automatically walk are continually reinforced, and if a tentacle connection that is used for walking breaks another one will be used or created so that we don’t forget how to walk. The onset or early stages of Alzheimer’s don’t affect our ability to walk! Though something we don’t do often, or recall often, can be lost when the pattern connections are disrupted by the disease.
The more often we repeat a particular task and the longer we do it for the harder it is for us to lose.
The Brain Muscle.
As with muscles, the “use it or lose” approach applies. Exercising the brain maintains the connections and creates new ones to pick up the slack from those damaged. The best exercise is social interaction. Doing puzzles like crosswords just makes us better at doing puzzles, being a great puzzle solver does not help us deal with, and enjoy, every day life! The best brain exercise to maintain and replace the connection patterns that are us is social engagement. Humans are Social beings, constant interaction with each other visually and with conversation is now known to be the best brain exercise. The more we remain socially engaged with groups of people (especially new groups) the greater the chance of maintaining the connection patterns in our brains to participate in, and enjoy life.
It’s best we do everything in a group, talk don’t text, meet don’t phone!
Life Works Against Us
Once passing middle age the tendency is for our social networks to diminish. The kids leave home and start their own families. We retire from work losing 8 hours a day five days a week of social engagement, as time passes lifelong friends can move away or pass. Marriage breakups or loss of a partner can eliminate our most intimate social engagement. Social isolation cannot be replaced by the TV, Facebook, or newspaper.
To exercise our brain participate in group activity, join clubs, learn new skills in a group environment, do charity work. Whatever the group social solution may be; just get out of the house, be with other people and talk to them. Don’t be shy or afraid to do so, the vast majority of people are good people who have something special to offer; their conversation. This will usually be provided by almost everyone following the words “Hi, I’m ………”
Become a Nun or Monk?
Nun’s living together in convents are known to be less afflicted with Alzheimer’s than the general population. Recent results of a long term study, where Nun’s handed over their brains to science after death, has shown this not to be the case. Inspections of their brains showed that Alzheimer’s was in fact present in their brains, but while alive they did not display the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Why could this be so?
It is proposed this is the case that the Nun’s daily social engagement remained intact throughout their lives. There is no retirement date for a Nun, and most daily tasks are carried out communally. Essentially social engagement continues throughout life, and each day may follow similar patterns without disruption forever. Social engagement and a repetitive daily environment is the most likely reasons suppressing Alzheimer’s symptoms.
Take Home Points
To minimise the impact of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
*Remain Socially engaged.
*Get Socially engaged.
*Learn New Skills.
*Seek out and participate in group activities.
A little plug for Boomers Club Meetups. We need help to broaden our Meetup activities. If you are skilled in something and you can help others learn in a group activity, or could help arrange social activities in your area and would like to help, please contact us.
Is Alzheimer’s Type III Diabetes?
If the answer is yes steps may be taken to postpone or prevent the onset of the disease.