CogniFit's Science blog: Aging As A Challenge Of Mankind

Aging As A Challenge Of Mankind

The many advances that medicine brought to the human kind over the last centuries, and especially in the last one, have created a new paradigm in the life cycle of a person, defying the nature of life itself. All the new devices, pharmaceuticals, surgical procedures, have allowed each human being in the developed areas of the world to live longer and healthier.

What once was an exception (to live up to 70, 80 or more years old), it is now the norm. And the norm keeps defying itself. However the success in coping with the physical aspects of aging and overcoming them hasn’t been the same when it comes to the human brain.

 In fact the brain remains one of the most, if not the most, unknown part of the human body. And the defiance of aging that medicine brought us is just starting its way in the brain health. In other words, our brains haven’t been made to last this long, and therefore we must learn to address the diseases of the brain that come with age, to guarantee that people will not just survive longer, but they will actually enjoy a longer life.

If we look at the statistics, three fifths of the Americans suffer from a disease of the nervous system at some point in their lives, which are often chronic and disabling. This includes disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, and there is no cure for many of them. For Alzheimer's and Parkinson's there are medications that reduce symptoms, but these do not stop or even slow the underlying degenerative process. Something else must be done to ensure people won’t get to that position.

Some of the problems associated with aging of the brain underlie the delayed effects of traumatic brain injuries seen in our wounded soldiers as well as boxers and hockey players and soccer. But they are not alone. Today, more than five million Americans suffer from Alzheimer's disease, and nearly a million and a half Parkinson. As Alzheimer's disease is rare before age 60, the increase in the life expectancy in the future will by itself nearly triple the number of people in the United States with Alzheimer's disease. Think of the social and economic problem this poses, to the individual, to their families, a to the society overall. Just on economic terms, in a few decades the cost of care for the Alzheimer’s victims could be as much as $1 trillion per year.

As always, prevention plays a large role in ensuring a decreased risk of having these diseases. But it needs to start way before the risks are visible, by creating a strong cognitive reserve beforehand. Keeping a healthy brain is challenging but rewarding. Don't forget, the odds are terrible: if nothing is done, the risk of an elderly of over 80 years old to developing Alzheimer’s disease is of 35%. Would anyone knowing this want to take this risk?

The answer is to the risk is to keep your brain functioning and fit. Work it out. Read, learn, challenge yourself. Start a brain training today, keep training over time. It will do a lot for your life in the short term. But mostly, it can save the control over your life in the future.