The black and white truth about grey matter

March 1, 2019

brain

Grey matter, cerebellum, encephalon. Call it what you want, but have you ever thought about the state of your brain?

Try this: remember blue carrot, purple frog, spotted umbrella, and the number eight. Now store that away for a few minutes while you read on to discover what can happen to your brain as you age. After all, Brain Awareness Week takes place March 11-17, so now is the perfect time to take a deeper look at the body’s most complex organ.

Our brains are destined to be put in the spotlight more and more each year. Why? Because as we age, our brains change. Connections between those areas of the brain that enable us to see “the big picture” by bringing different sources of information together, tend to grow stronger. At the same time, the parts of the brain important to learning and mastering complex mental activities actually shrink, along with the surrounding nerve cells. As the wave of Boomers ages over the next few years, the number of brain-related conditions will undoubtedly rise. And that will mean a lot more research about conditions such as:

Dementia

This refers to the set of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain. When someone experiences a decline in memory or other thinking skills that is severe enough to reduce the ability to perform everyday tasks, they are diagnosed to with having dementia. Dementia takes on many different forms, which range in both symptoms and severity.

Alzheimer’s Disease

As one of the most common forms of dementia, this condition causes a slow decline in memory, thinking and reasoning skills. What can begin as repeatedly forgetting recently learned information such as names or dates, can then progress to not recognizing family members, difficulty communicating and socializing, and the inability to complete day-to-day tasks.

Parkinson’s

This is a neurodegenerative disease where the cells that carry the chemical that controls movement in the brain, simply die. While symptoms can differ between individuals, the most common ones include tremors, stiffness of joints and muscles, and impaired balance.

Stroke

This refers to a sudden loss of brain function caused by the interruption of blood flow to the brain. Strokes rank third as a cause of Canadian adult mortality and are second only to Alzheimer’s disease as a cause of mental disability. The Heart & Stroke Foundation reminds us to watch for FAST (Face drooping, Arms that can’t be raised, Speech that is slurred or jumbled, and that it’s Time to call 9-1-1 right away if these symptoms are present.) With quick action, strokes stand a good chance of being avoided.

While these are just a few of the many illnesses our brains may encounter, the news isn’t all bad: studies suggest that there may be ways to slow down our brains from aging. Of course, many conditions such as Epilepsy, Multiple Sclerosis and Huntington’s Disease may be unavoidable as they are already in our DNA. But research shows that regular physical activity, intellectually stimulating activities, managing stress, staying socially active, eating and sleeping well can play a large role in decreasing the rate at which our brains age.

The other piece of good news is that having a brain-related condition does not preclude you from being able to get life insurance. Companies such as Canada Protection Plan offer a variety of options in life insurance for those who are in good health or have pre-existing medical conditions. To find out which life insurance plan is best suited for you, contact your advisor or call 1-877-851-9090.

Now, do you remember the four items mentioned at the beginning of this article? Bravo if you were able to remember them! If you are unable to name them, fear not. Stress, exhaustion or inattention may be at play. Take note of how often this is occurring. Should “forgetting” start to happen regularly, use your grey matter: talk to your doctor about your concerns.


SOURCES
Alzheimer’s Association: https://www.alz.org/…
Alzheimer Society of Canada: https://alzheimer.ca/…
National Institute of Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov/…
Parkinson.ca: https://www.parkinson.ca
Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/…
Heart and Stroke: https://www.heartandstroke.ca/…
Harvard Health: https://www.health.harvard.edu/…
The information contained is as of date of publication, and may be subject to change. These articles are intended as general information only, a licensed advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation.