Preventing Dementia and Alzheimer’s

There are a lot of articles circulating right now with the promise of  preventing Alzheimer’s and dementia.

We should continue to work to understand and diagnose these brain diseases.  Let’s also work towards having our best quality of life right now.

Here are the things we know prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s:

  • Diet: Mediterranean is best.  The oils they say.  But I think it is overall pretty balanced.  Remember, your body is a furnace what you put in is what you get out.
  • Exercise: Get some.  More is better.  Variety is important.  Blood pressure and heart health are important here.
  • Smoking: Don’t.
  • Drinking: Don’t.
  • Social: Stay Connected. Make a happy life.
  • Learn:.  LEARN LEARN LEARN!!!  Replaying Master Skills is not enough, you must learn new things in order to induce the glutamate response.  You cannot do the crossword every week and say it is new because the words change.  You actually have to learn something you don’t know.
  • Contemplative religion of any kind, including meditation.  This is science of consciousness.

We are still learning a lot about our brains. Brains are magic.  Brains work in ways that are beyond our mind’s eye.  Ha.

Seriously though, for discussion pretend the brain is just two parts. I think of the brain as the plumbing and the chemistry.

The plumbing: pipes, faucets, handles, maybe even a garbage disposal. Each of the brain organs, their synapses and all the cells are like the plumbing superhighway of our brain.

The chemistry: the water in the pipes, like dopamine, and seratonin that run over all this brain plumbing.

While I believe we are still learning how to impact the chemistry of our brain, I don’t believe we have learned how to grow new brain hardware (new plumbing), yet.

Any promise of growing your brain more, outside any research setting, seems like science fiction.

We will see it in a lab first before we see some company do it (asterix  it could be a monopolycompany like Amazon but they will still reveal their research lab work before they announce the product).

Back to hope.  I’m most interested in the overall approach that keeps my brain chemistry pumping the most awesome ecosystem possible.  Because I like my brain plumbing happy.  If you have anyone in your life who suffers from depression, you can see how chemistry can affect your quality of life.  So, instead of betting on what changes my brain to ‘regrow existing brain cells’ at 70,  I am interested in how to affect my brain chemistry with my behavior.  I’m absolutely convinced that Yoga is an example of how you can take a physical practice and improve brain chemistry (for another article).

There are products now like Brain U by SmartAging that encourage learning new skills or information, which releases different brain chemicals and changes cognition.  SmartAging is a company built on research; this looks promising.  SmartAging is getting VentureBeat coverage for its fundraising.

There are also videos that promise to teach you how to grow your brain in 12 days.  This seems too aggressive and like a pyramid scheme of healing. No one thing is the answer.  It is all the things.  So this, specifically, is not my jam.

There is also some discussion of  how aging and Alzheimer’s might be caused by germs, viruses, bacteria, or microbes.  This may be true.  Infection and inflammation are part of aging; they  cause wear and tear of our body so it’s believable that they are all connected.   And we are always exposed to infection because we are social and natural organisms.  If think this is a bigger influence on your risk profile, then wash your hands more.  No action here besides awareness and considering the scope of the universe and all its parts is way bigger than we can completely control.

Even considering these perspectives, the list above stands as is as THINGS YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT DEMENTIA.   There is no one answer.

When looking at products or answers for dementia, be discerning.

Ask yourself does this make sense? Are there schools or other companies that I trust aligned with this? Ask your friends what they think?  Discuss with as many people as you can.

I base my conclusions on multi year lifestyle studies, like the FINGER study.  I’m also watching how the Alzheimer’s Association moves to support research with Part the Cloud, designed to educate, fundraise and to accelerated disease research.  They’ve already granted $29M of research in this field.