5 ways to build an Alzheimer’s-resistant brain | Lisa Genova - Deepstash

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Forgetfulness is normal

Forgetfulness is normal

People think that memory is supposed to be perfect. However, our brains are not designed to remember everything.

People over the age of 50 often think all kinds of forgetting mean they have Alzheimer's. They're always forgetting names, and if they don't write down what they have to do later, they won't remember to do it. However, this is normal for all people.

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How Alzheimer's start

How Alzheimer's start

Alzheimer's starts with a sticky protein called 'amyloid beta.' It will bind to itself and form 'amyloid plaques.' If you have enough amyloid plaques accumulated in your brain, it will reach a tipping point at some stage that causes neurofibrillary tangles, neuroinflammation, cell death, and other symptoms we classically know as Alzheimer's.

Before that tipping point, you're symptom-free. After the tipping point, the glitches in memory formation and retrieval are different. 

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Alzheimer symptoms

Alzheimer's starts in your hippocampus, the place responsible for forming new memories.

So, the very first symptoms of Alzheimer's will be not remembering what someone said a few minutes ago, repeating yourself over and over because you don't remember what you just said, not remembering what happened last week, even if it was meaningful. Things you would normally remember from last week won't get consolidated.

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Alzheimer's doesn't just stay in your hippocampus

It will invade your frontal lobe, so you'll have problems with problem-solving and decision-making. It will invade parts of your brain that have to do with where things are in space, so you might get lost in your neighbourhood.

It will invade the parts of your brain that have to do with language so that you will have trouble to find the right words more and more.

The disease will then move on to your limbic system and cause changes in emotion and personality.

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The good news

The accumulation of amyloid plaques takes 15 to 20 years and can be influenced by how we live.

Things that influence the amyloid plaque levels.

  1. Sleep. While you sleep, the glial cells in your brain clear away all the metabolic debris and amyloid beta accumulated in your brain while you were awake.
  2. Diet. A Mediterranean diet can reduce your risk of Alzheimer's by almost half.
  3. Exercise. A brisk walk for 30 minutes, four to five times a week, is enough to decrease your amyloid plaque levels.
  4. Chronic stress will increase your risk of developing Alzheimer's.
  5. Learning something new.

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Learning something new

Learning something new

Every time you learn something new, you build new synapses, neural connections, and a 'cognitive reserve.'

If someone with Alzheimer's built a lot of redundant connections,  they can dance around those roadblocks and still get to the memory they need. 

So, learning new things gives a way to build an Alzheimer-resistant brain.

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