As awareness of dementia and other related neurological disease becomes more widely available, clients I see are naturally concerned about what this may mean for them – particularly if they are exposed to this insidious condition by way of parents or significant others.
Key facts  according to figures provided by WHO (World Health Organisation):
- Dementia is a syndrome in which there is deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities.
- Although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not a normal part of ageing.
- Worldwide, 35.6 million people have dementia and there are 7.7 million new cases every year. (2012)
- Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia and may contribute to 60–70% of cases.
- Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide.
- Dementia has physical, psychological, social and economic impact on caregivers, families and society.
What can we do to reduce our chances of contracting dementia?
For a number of years now the personal development industry has, among others, promoted “brain training” as a means to improve the health and overall ability of the brain to “stave off cognitive decline”.  This industry has become so successful, based on these claims, that many millions of pounds/dollars are spent each year by the anxious consumer.
However, research tells us that learning the tasks set in brain training activities (ie solving crosswords, playing Sudoku, chess and other mentally taxing exercises) produces skills that are not broadly transferable to the rest of our cognitive requirements! In other words, getting ‘strong’ at brain training exercises, improved our ability to do… well, those brain training exercises!
I’m not immune to wanting to prolong my cognitive abilities for as long as possible and it seems to be that some of the ways to help increase the potential for this are about increasing and maintaining our aerobic input  (yes, exercise!), enjoying a healthy diet – and increasing our ability to relax; be less stressed and anxious. Cognitive decline is however, for most of us, a natural and inevitable effect of the ageing process!
There is also a longstanding school of thought that suggests we have so much of our brain that is “untapped”. The excellent book, The Invisible Gorilla, suggests that it is unlikely we would evolve, as humans with such a large head – and the inherent difficulties this poses during the journey through the birth canal – unless it was wholly necessary! Secondary to this, surely we would use all the available grey matter now, today! The idea that the brain would sit mostly redundant for even more millennia seems at odds with ‘our’ evolution.
Is what we re-cognise now “the truth?”
The link in the paragraph above to “The Invisible Gorilla” provides excellent – and often ‘shocking’ observations under scientific conditions, around how what we think we are intuitive to, what we cognise and believe we are seeing and sensing – often betrays our true abilities. This doesn’t have to be a negative, but it does serve to perhaps help us accept in some ways the futility of some of the efforts we subscribe to that may be lacking in efficacy for protecting our cognitive functioning, believing that we will lose a ‘perfect view’ enjoyed today! I recommend this book and viewing the now famous “Invisible Gorilla” experiment for yourself!
Attending your appointment with life – now!
You have an appointment with life, and that appointment is in the present moment. If you miss the present moment, you miss your appointment with life. That is very serious! Please practice mindful breathing so you can return home and encounter life. – Thich Nhat Hanh
So, eat well, rest, play, love, laugh and exercise to provide what would be a more optimal lifestyle into older age. By all means ‘brain train’ but re-cognise the benefits in a more aligned way, for what they may be. Be aware of all of the above, live more mindfully.
Thinking of taking action?
Do you want to alleviate some of the less healthy aspect within your thinking and behaviours? Call or write, because it’s never too late.
 http://www.brainage.com/launch/training.jsp (2009)
 “Hertzog” et al. “Enrichment effect on adult cognitive development”.
 A.F. Kramer et al. “Ageing, fitness and neurocognitive function. Nature (400) 418-419.
Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.
Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).