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Alzheimer’s Risk and Prevention: the Cognitive Reserve

A couple of recent research findings are making the media rounds, bringing much needed attention to the high Alzheimer’s rates among Latinos and to preventive approaches based on the Cognitive Reserve – such as, what jobs we choose:

More Alzheimer’s risk for Hispanics, studies find (International Herald Tribune):

– Studies suggest that many Hispanics may have more risk factors for developing dementia than other groups, and a significant number appear to be getting Alzheimer’s earlier. And surveys indicate that Latinos, less likely to see doctors because of financial and language barriers, more often mistake dementia symptoms for normal aging, delaying diagnosis.

– “This is the tip of the iceberg of a huge public health challenge,” said Yanira Cruz, president of the National Hispanic Council on Aging. “We really need to do more research in this population to really understand why is it that we’re developing these conditions much earlier.”

Comment:  a potential explanation for these higher rates? Let’s now read the next story-

Job choice ‘affects Alzheimer’s’ (BBC News)

– Going to university, then choosing a mentally demanding job may help protect the brain from the devastating impact of Alzheimer’s disease on memory.

– Scientists found tissue damage was much quicker to lead to memory loss in the less intellectually stimulated.

Comment: The much higher than average school drop-out rates among Latinos, that then results in a more limited range of job options, may be contributing to those Alzheimer’s prevalence rates.

For more information about this connection between education and Alzheimer’s disease, you may enjoy my interview with Dr. Yaakov Stern on Building Your Cognitive Reserve, which can be summarized as follows:

– Lifetime experiences, like education, engaging occupation, and leisure activities, have been shown to have a major influence on how we age, specifically on whether we will develop Alzheimer’s symptoms or not.

– This is so because stimulating activities, ideally combining physical exercise, learning and social interaction, help us build a Cognitive Reserve to protect us.

– The earlier we start building our Reserve, the better; but it is never too late to start. And, the more activities, the better: the effect is cumulative.

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