Modern Lifestyles, Thought and the Nature of Alzheimer
By Hwaa Irfan
In the midst of modern lifestyles, despite all the ‘advances’ in modern science and medicines, and our belief in them, one never really gives thought, or the time to think of the causes behind 20th and 21st century diseases. As such, good health has become very much a fashion, a fashion that is sometimes misinformed as to what one should or should not eat. However, as some of know good health is not always about what one eats, because if that was the case, we would all eat the foods that would help, and the effect would be experienced by all in the same way. There are many factors to good health, and Alzheimer Disease, AD is a very good example of that.
It has been established that AD is a degenerative disease of the brain, from which there is no recovery. The nerve cells are slowly attacked in all parts of the cortex (outer layer of the brain) – effectively denying the sufferer control over memory, emotions, and the ability to recognize mistakes and coordinate movements.
Researcher, scientists, and pharmaceutical companies make great effort to find the cause of the problem, and solutions which have yet materialize beyond the profit margins of the companies concerned, but one factor in Alzheimer Disease remains buried amongst all the discoveries. Back in 2001, a study led by Dr. Friedland, Associate Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry, and Radiology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals of Cleveland, U.S., focused on the relationship between physical and mental activity and AD. The study involved 193 people with AD and 358 controls. Part of the study looked at those less educated and those more educated, which will not be focused upon here, because it leads to the whole meaning, practice and purpose of education, and because there are too many examples in everyday life where more education does not mean more intelligent. Instead one aspect of the study looked at the lifestyles of the participants from their 20s through to their 30s. It was found that the controls had a greater diversity of activities at an increased frequency as compared to the AD participants. Those who were ‘intellectually’ more active in their 20s and 30s were found to be at a lower risk of developing AD.
The researchers noted that humans are genetically equipped to be active throughout their entire life and pointed out that developing countries have higher rates of activity and lower rates of AD. At the time of the findings, 1990 figures were available demonstrating that the lowest incidence of AD was found to be in Islamic Muslim countries, Latin American and Caribbean countries (0.9%), 3.0% in China, and 4.4% in developed countries. It was found to be rare in Africa, with increased risks for African-Americans equivalent to that of developed countries, with Japanese facing increased risk if the migrated to the U.S. Then, Alzheimer was the fourth leading cause of death in adults, particularly women. Dr. Friedland said then:
“We believe that health measures should be instituted to enhance adult participation in activites, and decrease participation in activities that involve little physical or intellectual stimulation, such as television.”
Far be it to say, with the increasing problem of crime, that more and more people, particularly young people are less likely to go out and explore their environments. Technology has taken us a leap further in realms of immobility. There are more people, and less diversity in thought, ideas, and understanding. Schooling today has departed from education, becoming a tool to mould and fashion young people into a set of skills with a set mentality, and within pass or fail. The true potential of a young person is cloned into, with the human spirit put to sleep. Within that illusion of empowerment, very little of the above study has been made to hit home, and if it did, the liberty that is missing in democracy today would exercise by more, not less people. Instead we have more and more people with a set response to any given situation under the mistaken belief that we are expressing our own thoughts, beliefs and intentions. The global economic crisis provides many examples. As protests spread around the world, one of the main reasons is better wages to meet increasing financial demands. This is despite the fact that those profiteering will continue to do so, and thus prices will continue to rise. Instead the status quo is accepted, when one should be questioning an economic system that makes it impossible for the consumer to provide for their basic needs. This is a clear case of conditioning, conditioned to accept and not question, or to seek alternatives.
The intellectual activity that is missing in Alzheimer Disease, AD, is the same intellectual activity which questions what is wrong, and not accept it as being right, sifts the facts from the stories/propaganda, would not accept a repetitive mechanistic way of life. Schooling has played a great role in this achievement, putting the intellect to sleep, and the memory of anything other than what life has become, yet the subconscious and the soul cannot, and malnourished the subconscious and the soul degenerate out of lack of use. Schooling tells a person, who to like, who to hate, who to be like, and what is acceptable and what is unacceptable.
Is there any thinking in this process?
Even about our own bodies, we ignore all the signs of something wrong, and trust a complete stranger who knows very little about us, because they are qualified to know everything when science is still discovering the machinations of the human mind and body, making us susceptible to wrongly prescribed treatment. So we end up disbelieving the signs that something is wrong. It is only recently that it has been discovered that the wrong kind of sleep changes the structure of the brain! It was not too long ago that they did not know what the purpose of sleep was, and here we are living lives that instruct us to go without sleep, which is very much involved in the process of cognition – at least that is one thing the Spanish got right!
“I think, therefore I am.” – Descartes
Does this then mean that I am not thinking, and therefore I am not? A serious question is it not! How much of you is you, and not somebody or something else?
We believe in the solutions that have been presented to us, and when those solutions appear invalid, we are presented with another set of solutions, and they become invalid and so and so forth! We have learnt to see the world in one way, and even those who are far removed from that lack of thinking process by nature of geography, lust after such ways without really realizing that what their hearts seek, is not what their egos seek! So we have become divided into two classes – how much as the debate been raised that there is an erosion of the middle class since the acceptance that there is a global economic crisis? We have a class of providers, and a class of consumers who do not think, have been taught not to think, and do not realize the extent to which we do not think. It is only by the grace of God that the human spirit flickers now and again, disconcerting to those who do not realize that they really do not want to think because of the illusion of who they perceive themselves to be within the status quo. Because of this the human spirit often gets diverted down destructive avenues the most common being mental ill health, but the other forms go down the road of various forms of activism, both positive, and negative, but both towards a greater cause. The irony is that sometimes, the cause is no different than the status quo! Paulo Coelho put it more clearly as:
The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time. The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the Good Fight.
The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the Good Fight.
And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams – we have refused to fight the Good Fight.
When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a short period of tranquillity. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being.
We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychoses arise. What we sought to avoid in combat – disappointment and defeat – come upon us because of our cowardice.
And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breathe, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of our Sunday afternoons.” – The Pilgrimage
This is the process of not thinking that we have all fallen into. Instead we live our dreams through the T.V. and cinema screens, and as soon we have had our dose, we remote control back, to not thinking accept our souls know, and our bodies live to tell the tale. As youth suicides increase in the U.S., and self harm amongst the youth increases in the U.K., it was interesting to listen today to an Egyptian youth who was a part of the Facebook group that led to the Youth Revolution of January 25th 2011, one which the Western mainstream media would deny. He described the feeling of leaving it to the “clouds.” To discussing the problem online, to applying it to the streets. He still relived the moment when they marched down towards Tahrir as a small group that swelled as they approached the Square. It started as a protest, and by the time it got to Tahrir, he realized he was not just sitting watching a film – it was real, and it was felt by others.
The process of thinking should not require a protest, or various forms of anger, but because we have been taught not to think, we have also been taught not to take our place in the world.
I put it without any evidence than that given that Alzheimer is a product of the above, a product of not thinking, of not using our bodies the way God designed our bodies to work. Even if one does not accept God, the fact still remains that our bodies were designed to do things, productive things. When Islam tells us to seek knowledge for it is the way to Paradise, while we look at such beliefs as immaterial, when our bodies are telling us it is material we forget that the Laws of Nature which the Divine religions are based on, are all the same Laws that designed life, therefore designed us. Education, and not schooling exercises our intellect, our potential, our self understanding and our self worth. Every time we learn something new (not in the schooling sense i.e. second information), a nerve cell grows, and the more we learn, the more we practice what we learn a whole neural network grows stabilizing what we have learnt within us.
“Our body parts age in regard to how often they are used. People who learn new tasks are exercising nerve cells and these nerve cells are actually changing structure and chemistry with activity.” – Dr. Friedland.
By learning to think for one’s self, one exercises greater control over one’s life, for it is that lack of control that leads to depression washed up in a current of life created by others without you because you handed over your life without thinking, without being, and without truly living. We then learn to be patient with our process of thinking, and to stop expecting immediate solutions, or investing the power of god in those who are ill-equipped to take up such a role. In learning to be more content with ourselves, we then learn to be more content with others.
The Wrong Amount of Sleep Can Age Your Brain By Up to Seven Years.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1382665/The-wrong-sleep-age-brain-SEVEN-YEARS.html