Daily Editors' Notes

Another blow to brain fitness

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It's been a tough couple of weeks for proponents of brain fitness. Another study has found that we don't have proof of any particular action or behavior to prevent Alzheimer's.

This study comes on the heels of another that found that computer games don't enhance our cognitive skills. (See the last blog entry.)

A group of experts in the Alzheimer's study examined 25 systematic reviews and 250 primary research studies. While cognitive engagement and physical activities showed an association with decreased risk of dementia, the quality of evidence was typically low.

Also, the risk modification effect of reported associations was small. An abstract of the study noted that factors showing an influence on Alzheimer's may play a role in late-life cognition, but there isn't enough evidence yet to prove it.

Essentially this means that we can't count on eating well, working out or doing brain-challenging activities to guard against Alzheimer's.

So is this a big deal? I don't necessarily think so. Whether or not more research comes along to disprove the latest findngs, it seems we are merely seeing our limits in being able to stop Father Time and reverse genetics.

While it is a little disappointing to think we can't influence our risk of Alzheimer's, facing mortality is not necessarily a bad thing.

There's been a steady push over the last few decades (probably longer) to look and feel younger than we really are. We all know the baby boom generation is not going to settle into old age willingly. Their attitude is contributing to the upgrading of nursing homes to be more modern and upscale (a development from which, thankfully, we all will benefit).

But ultimately, despite our medical developments and technological progress, we will never be able to avoid that little spoken of stage of life called death.

And maybe that's OK. Why should having an end point stop us from living life to its fullest? We should still continue to test our physical and mental limits.

It also may be healthier to acknowledge mortality instead of pretending it doesn't exist. While it's not necessarily fun to age and feel our bodies and minds decline, being aware of the full continuum of life also arguably makes the experience richer. For one thing, it helps us appreciate our relative youthfulness, physical ability and mental acuity—while we have it—even more. 

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.


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