About 2 weeks ago, I read a Wall Street Journal article that documented a growing body of evidence that shows that major depression occurring in late middle age doubles the probability that an individual shall have significant cognitive impairments after the age of 65, and that it very significantly increases the probability that life shall end badly, i.e., in the clutches of Alzheimer’s Disease. A history of depression is one of a very long list of factors contributing to increased AD risk. Exposure to a little mercury or to other heavy metals, exposure to PCBs and a host of other biotoxins, traumatic brain injury, a little stroke or two or three, a childhood history of learning impairments, limited mobility, a little ongoing oxygen deprivation, or a history of mental disability are just a few of the items on that long and growing list.
I may be a little slow (Damn. That’s another risk factor!), but even I see that just about any damn thing that harms the brain a little (or a lot) sets the brain up for an early downfall. There is a lesson in that fact: Degraded brain processes resulting from damage induced through a very rich variety of physical and chemical and functional causes can ALL contribute to setting the AD pathological sequelae in motion.
In that light, along with the growing evidence that improving brain processes through appropriate brain exercises results in a delay on AD pathology onset, the elucidation of these many “causes” of AD demonstrate that its pathological sequelae arise as a direct consequence of the progressively deteriorating operational status of our brains. By this view, AD is an end-stage of operational deterioration, WHATEVER its causes. If we suffer ANY injury or damage that degrades it, risk goes up. If we don’t work hard through normal brain use to maintain our machinery in fine fettle, risk goes up. If we work hard to sustain highly effective operations, risk goes down. These studies also argue, of course, that if a person HAS suffered losses, expending extra efforts to RESTORE a higher operational status is important, and will pay off!