By Frank ‘Boy’ Pestaño

Chessmoso

Thursday, December 9, 2010

ALZHEIMER’S Disease (AD), also known as “the long goodbye,” is a progressive, degenerative disease that alters the brain, causing impaired memory, thinking and behavior and finally complete helplessness.

It is characterized by a progressive decline in comprehension, calculation, language, learning capacity and judgment sufficient to impair personal activities of daily living.

It is caused by the build-up of abnormal proteins in the brain.

Most often, it is diagnosed in people over 65 years of age, although the less-prevalent early-onset Alzheimer’s can occur in the 40s and 50s.

It is named after Alois Alzheimer, a German neurologist who described it in 1907.

In 2006, there were 26.6 million sufferers worldwide. Alzheimer’s is predicted to affect 1 in 85 people globally by 2050.

How to prevent AD? Play chess!

AD develops for an indeterminate period of time before becoming fully apparent, and it can progress undiagnosed for years. The mean life expectancy following diagnosis is approximately seven years. And fewer than three percent of individuals live more than 14 years after diagnosis.

Because AD cannot be cured and is degenerative, management of patients is essential
and is known for placing a great burden on caregivers.

Famous people who got affected with AD are Ronald Reagan, Charles Bronson, Charlton Heston, Sugar Ray Robinson, Perry Como, Rita Hayworth, Barry Goldwater, Harold Wilson etc.

Arnold Denker, an octogenarian and a late US chess champion, wrote a letter to Chess Life asserting that he had never known a grandmaster who had developed Alzheimer’s disease.

Dan Mayers, another active tournament chess player in his 80s, declared that Denker was correct although scientific experiments were necessary to prove it.

The New England Journal of Medicine has published an article that, in effect, says Denker and Mayer could be right. Beginning in 1980, they followed 469 people over age 75, largely screening out anyone who had signs of dementia.

Those who played games, particularly chess and bridge showed a 75 percent lower risk of getting AD or dementia. Those who played a musical instrument showed had a 64 percent lower risk.

The study, of course, could be flawed, but the unusually positive result for bridge and chess players is certainly significant and startling.

Research shows that the brain is much like the body–it needs continuous activity to remain strong and supple and fight off the predations of old age.

And researchers have determined that chess is uniquely well-suited to “exercising” the brain. It is simple to play, but offers nearly limitless variation.

It requires memory, problem-solving skills, abstract thought, and creativity.

People who play it regularly in their older years are less likely to develop AD.

Studies have shown that old people are less likely to suffer from a swift
deterioration of AD if they are mentally very active. This activity can take the form of many things but it is believed that chess is one of the best ways to keep the mind active.

For Alzheimer’s patients, this mental activity is even more important as this disease swiftly takes the patient’s memory from him. By actively playing a game of chess, the patient is forced not only to remember how each piece moves but also what openings, middle games and end games to play in a certain situation.

CEPCA MEMBERS. Please take note that the induction of the new set of officers members of the Board of Trustees and Christmas party is today in my residence in Mabolo starting at 6 p.m. For more information, get in touch with Manny Manzanares at 09058386310 or call me at 2317656.

(boypestano@gmail.com,www.chessmoso.blogspot.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on December 10, 2010.