One of the worst things about witnessing the Alzheimer’s epidemic raging around us is the feeling that we can’t do anything about it, and that it is inevitable. Because there is currently no cure or vaccination, and the disease is not widely talked about in society, it is easy to feel hopeless and in-the-dark.
Thankfully, there are people who are talking about Alzheimer’s and offering comfort and insight. In this highly-informative TED Talk, neuroscientist and author Lisa Genova explains that Alzheimer’s is not necessarily our brain’s destiny, and that there are steps we can take to lessen our chances of developing the disease.
She begins by explaining how the buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain contributes to memory impairment. This buildup continues for approximately 20 years before it reaches a “tipping point” when Alzheimer’s symptoms appear. Most of us have moments where we forget where we place our keys, or why we came into a particular room, but Genova stresses that these are perfectly normal occurrences. It is after the tipping point is reached when you start to see more serious signs of memory loss, such as finding your keys in the refrigerator. Because there is a clear tipping point in developing the disease, scientists are now focused on keeping the plaque from building up, and believe the cure relies on clearing away amyloid plaque before they can cause symptoms.
Genova assures us that our genetics are not destiny, and that there are steps we can take to avoid plaque buildup. One of the most important things we can do for brain health is getting enough deep sleep, which is like a “power cleanse.” In addition to adequate sleep, being aware of heart health can help stave off Alzheimer’s. Cardiovascular disease has a high correlation to Alzheimer’s, so a healthy diet and aerobic exercise can reduce the likelihood of developing it.
Interestingly, even if the plaques have reached the tipping point, Genova says that it’s possible to not experience many symptoms. Those who create new neuron pathways by consistently learning new things can have Alzheimer’s without showing signs of the disease. Genova stresses that the key is to learn something new, as opposed to merely recalling existing knowledge as is done with crossword puzzles or trivia games.
Even if one does go on to develop Alzheimer’s, Genova states that it’s important to realize that there is still life to be lived, love to be had, and most importantly, that “you are more than what you can remember.”
See Lisa Genova’s powerful Ted Talk in the video below!
TC currently lives in the soggy Pacific Northwest, bellied up to a sun lamp. In addition to writing, she enjoys photography and estate sales, and is the proud mother to an ever-growing collection of cacti.