Friday, May 06, 2005

Why we have so many demented people

Researchers at the Kaiser Permanente medical care program in California found that obesity in middle age is found to often tie inwith dementia later in life.
Obese women are twice as likely to suffer from dementia than women of normal weight. The likelihood is a mere 30 percent higher in men.

Those are the facts, now let's speculate. Obese people, by reputation, are less active than people of normal weight. That means that when they have time to spare, especially as they get older and particularly when they retire, they are more likely to indulge in passtimes that involve little physical activity.

Physical activity is hard work for an overweight or obese person.

The easiest (most at-hand) non-physical activity for people of any age to indulge in would be watching television. Since the beginning of its popularity in the 1950s, critics of television have claimed that TV viewers have little to think about because they have all the thinking done for them by the producers of television programs. The answers, the conclusions, the solutions have all been worked out so the viewer has no thinking to do for himself or herself.

The brain is one of those "use it or lose it" organs. Once a person reaches the state of dementia, the brain has been "lost", for all intents and purposes. There is no turning back because the brain no longer has anything to turn back with. At that point, it no longer has the resources to heal itself.

Television makes the progression towards dementia an easy path.

However, at any point before dementia sets in, the human brain can be turned around and worked back into shape again. The trouble is that people who are on the path toward dementia are the ones least likely to want to turn back. They find the world too daunting, too frightening.

Intelligence means nothing in this scheme. The most intelligent people (on the road to dementia) will be the most avid and determined that they are doing the right thing (at least for themselves, they claim). They have the most closed, and forcibly closed, minds. Theworld, they have concluded, is a terrible place and getting worse.

They close their world around them like a cocoon, living their lives mostly within the confines of their living quarters.

The best way to avoid this is to cultivate active minds in younger people. Teach them to think, to reason, to solve problems and puzzles. Teach them that learning is exciting, refreshing, invigorating. Teach them that intellectual activity (working the brain) is the easiest way to show others that they have superior knowledge on a particular subject (becoming an Olympic athlete or sports star is much harder, by comparison).

This enhances self esteem, which is lacking in many people and which is severely lacking in those with closed minds.

Yes, a TIA (Turning It Around) program would promote that. Yes, it would save lives and fortunes on health care for elderly people. Yes, it would make for cultures and societies that are mentally much healthier than we have now.

Are you ready to help me to turn it around?

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems'
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