What are small, enjoyable changes you can make NOW that will reduce your Alzheimer’s risk and increase your quality-of-life odds decades down the road? Author Kenneth Kosik, MD, explains what music has to do with Outsmarting Alzheimer’s: What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk.
My guest today is Dr. Kenneth Kosik, author of the book Outsmarting Alzheimer’s: What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk. Dr. Kosik is Co-Director of the Neuroscience Research Institute at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Before that, he was a professor at the Harvard Medical School. He has won numerous awards and his work has appeared in media outlets including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, BBC, and CBS 60 Minutes.
- How much control do we have over our risk of Alzheimer’s? Are we at the mercy of our genetics, or are there things can we intentionally, proactively do to change our risk factor?
- When is the best time to take action to reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s? (Before the earliest symptoms surface.)
- What are the main factors that should be considered in decreasing our risk for Alzheimer’s? Are these the same factors to consider in slowing the progression of any symptoms that may already be present?
- Kosik’s book includes 80 simple lifestyle prescriptions to slow the progression of symptoms as much as possible and improve quality of life. Prescriptions are grouped into 6 categories, using the acronym SMARTS:
- S=Social Smarts
- M=Meal Smarts
- A=Aerobic Smarts
- R=Resilience Smarts
- T=Train-Your-Brain Smarts
- S=Sleep Smarts
- In the “Train-Your-Brain” category, Prescription #1 is: Learn to play an instrument! Dr. Kosik tells us why he chose this as his #1 Prescription.
- How do these prescriptions relate to epigenetics?
- In determining which is better for your brain – formal brain games or hobbies that you enjoy – Dr. Kosik recommends considering these factors:
- Does the activity transfer benefits to everyday life?
- Does it get you out of your comfort zone?
- Is it novel (new experience)?
- Is it challenging?
- What if we don’t have any musical training in our background – is it ever too late to learn, or too late to reap the benefits of learning to play a musical instrument?
- Outsmarting Alzheimer’s: What You Can Do to Reduce Your Risk, by Kenneth S. Kosik, MD
- Dr. Kosik’s lab faculty profile page
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Kosik Lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara
- I reference the metaphor I recently read comparing epigenetics to a piano buried deep in our body. This is the amazing book, Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why it Matters and How to Harness It, by Ethan Kross, who says in the book: “Just because you have a certain type of gene doesn’t mean it actually affects you. What determines who we are is whether those genes are turned on or off. One way to think about this is to imagine that your DNA is like a piano buried deep in your cells. The keys on the piano are your genes, which can be played in a variety of ways. Some keys will never be pressed. Others will be struck frequently and in steady combinations. Part of what distinguishes me from you and you from everyone else in the world is how these keys are pressed. That’s gene expression. It’s the genetic recital within your cells that plays a role in forming how your body and mind work.”
- A related article you may enjoy: Playing an instrument, singing can help the brain defend against dementia
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For Dr. Kosik’s work with a large family with familial Alzheimer’s disease in Colombia, South America, he invited Cristina Pato, a bagpiper from Spain, to perform and tell her story. She inter-weaved a performance on the bagpipes with an oral history of her mother who developed dementia. Dr. Kosik describes the powerful and poignant rendition that left the entire audience in tears. He notes that she often plays with Yo-Yo Ma, and her performances can be found on the Internet.
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