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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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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