Latest play to beating Alzheimer's is playing poker

Sep 24, 2013 3:00 AM

The ancient Roman poet Ovid observed:

“It is the mind that makes the man...”

Our minds define who we are – our personalities, our intellectual abilities, our ability to love and experience a full range of emotions. Even our ability to take care of ourselves. We are at the mercy of our minds – our brains.

The nice house, the fancy car, your retirement traveplans to l... None of these matter much if you deteriorate mentally in your senior years.

In a previous article on GamingToday.com, we suggested: Play poker to avoid Alzheimer’s disease! Because Alzheimer’s is such an onerous and devastating mental disease, it is of interest to review recent news stories about combating it as we age. Much of this supports our thesis that playing poker is an ideal way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease that strikes millions of us, especially as we age.

Diet has been suggested of playing a role. Research at the University of Exeter in England has analyzed many studies and concludes that a Mediterranean diet “might reduce the risk of dementia.” More testing is necessary to confirm this conclusion.

By the way, a Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetable, fruit, fish and olive oil – along with less meat and dairy products. This does not negate our premise that mentally challenging activities – such a playing poker – also provide another viable path for preventing Alzheimer’s.

Multitasking is key: More to the point, a recent study conducted by the Neuroscience Imaging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, reported in the Sept. 5 issue of the journal Nature, that a new video game, called NeuroRacer, “may help sharpen mental skills that fade with age.”

The study was funded in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging. Key is that this video game requires players to multitask – juggle several things that require attention at the same time. Well, that’s exactly why poker is so effective in preventing Alzheimer’s.

Is there a game or activity that requires more “multitasking” than poker? (Well, maybe driving in the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Los Angeles’ pot-filled roads, while listening to the news on your car radio.)

Recall that I told you about a paper in the July 3 online journal of Neurology by Dr. Robert Wilson, professor of neurological and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago. He noted that “people who engaged in frequent mental activity in later life had a rate of mental decline that was 32 percent lower than those with average activity. . . Those with infrequent mental activity experienced a decline in mental abilities that was 48 percent faster.”

Right on the mark: The video game concept, Dr. Wilson’s observations, and our poker observations are consistent with recent recommendations from the Alzheimer’s Association to exercise our brains. To reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, mental activities such as playing cards, strengthens the connections (synapses) that permit communication between our brain cells (neurons).

“Challenge your mind with a difficult task at least once a week” to “help increase brain cell connections.” Twice a week at the poker table is even better – especially if you develop the skills to be a consistent winner.

What better brain challenge is there than making key poker decisions:

• Peeking at your holecards, considering pertinent factors, should you pay to see the flop? How about raising?

• Should you raise on the flop to protect your vulnerable two-pair – or raise to get a free card on the turn?

• Having flopped the nuts, how about slow-playing to build the pot? Or, should you Check-Raise?

• Can you “read” your opponent: Look for tells. What hand is he likely holding?

• Having evaluated your opponents, how should this influence your decision?

• Holding a drawing hand with 6 outs on the turn, are the pot odds high enough to call a raised bet?

• Is this a good spot to bluff? (Hopefully, you have developed the skills. . .)

As I said before: Try it; you’ll like it – and it may very well help you to avoid Alzheimer’s disease for the rest of your life. 

We invite your comments. Email to [email protected].

 

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