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Alzheimer's Disease, Can Brain Stimulation Prevent its Onset?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

This week the Alzheimer's Society in conjunction with the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) are testing the question, "does using computer programs to stimulate the brain help prevent dementia. Thousands of volunteers across Britain are joining the effort. With and anticipated one million people in Great Britain alone expected to develop Alzheimer's Disease in the next ten years, there is a lot of interest in this experiment.

People will engage in fun and interesting computer activities designed to stimulate the brain, for ten minutes, three times per week for six weeks. The results will be revealed to the public some time next year.

Recent research on the plasticity of the brain indicates that it might be possible to either prevent or delay the onset of this disease. From a neuroplastic point of view, the more brain cells (neurons) and, even more important, the more dendrites at the ends of the neurons available, the more could be destroyed by Alzheimer's without causing any significant loss of thinking ability. Of course, this is just a theory.

Alzheimer's is a matter of grave concern all around the world. Just today it was announced that people in the United States are living longer and healthier lives then previously. Other nations are even further ahead of the United States in longevity. This means that the aged population worldwide will continue to grow and with it all the concerns about the physical and mental health of the elderly. Ideally, an older population should not have to mean larger numbers of dementia patients. Unfortunately, at the present time, those people who live into and beyond the "eighties" are at a 50% risk of developing this disease.

The Alzheimer's Society advises that leading a healthy lifestyle is the best way to reduce the risk of dementia. People need to eat a healthy diet, keep active, not smoke cigarettes, get blood pressure and cholesterol checked and keep a healthy weight. It is usually the Mediterranean diet that is suggested as the healthiest and most nutritious around. Search the Internet or ask your Medical Doctor for advice and information about this type of diet.

Your questions, comments and experiences are welcome.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD