Skillfully after a cure to Alzheimer’s; poker might help

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This special column is dedicated to my lady friend, Anita K., a highly regarded artist/teacher (papermaking) who volunteered so much of her time to help others, classical musician (piano and recorder), a Charter Member of the Los Angeles Recorder Orchestra, a gourmet cook who loved to entertain friends and family, and friend to so many. Anita’s family just moved her into a facility for those requiring continual care for Alzheimer’s disease.

I’m not a neurologist, a physician who diagnoses and treats disorders of the nervous system – not even a medical doctor. On the other hand, I was fortunate to have an excellent education and career as a scientist/engineer that taught me how to analyze problems and use logic when seeking solutions – even when the supporting data were limited.

There are 5.4 million people in the U.S. known to be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. 

The headline in the Nov. 24, 2016 issue of the L.A. Times reads: “Eli Lilly drug fails to slow Alzheimer’s.”

One of the world’s largest and most competent developers of drugs to treat many diseases, Eli Lilly and Co. admitted utter failure in finding a drug that would prevent, cure or delay the progress of the most serious form of dementia. 

Lilly has invested about $3 billion over the last 27 years.

Its stock fell 10.5% when it admitted failure. Meanwhile, the number of people afflicted with the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease continues to escalate. 

But don’t give up. At least 18 other drugs are in late-stage testing.

Alzheimer’s research organizations are also looking at dietary therapies, supplements, and even a medical device.

Despite my lack of medical experience, I believe I have something of value to offer. 

I felt it appropriate to share the following information related to poker and Alzheimer’s. 

There is often more than one way to solve a problem – to skin the proverbial cat.

In the game of poker, while we cannot gaze into a crystal ball, we can apply logic to make important decisions. 

Several years ago, I had observed that not a single member of our Claude Pepper Seniors Poker Group – some well into their 80s – had ever been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s (to my knowledge). 

There are about 200 members. While far from any sort of reliable statistical evaluation, the indications are interesting, to say the least.

So I discussed my observation with one of our early members. 

Graciella M. had been a neurologist before retiring many years ago, and her husband had been a brain surgeon. She was not surprised.

Graciella explained (and I elaborate): Playing poker requires that we constantly analyze situations, and think seriously while making one decision after the other – in fast response, as each hand is being played. Substantial mental challenges!

A typical hand of hold’em takes just about two minutes from start to finish, so you have to be actively involved mentally to make the ongoing and never-ending decisions – great mental exercise.

Such extensive mental activity is bound to lead to a healthier mind. The synapses in the brain – that connect the brain cells (neurons) – grow stronger and healthier. 

Result: The brain functions better; loss of memory, common as we age, becomes less significant and less likely – and, with that, hopefully – no more Alzheimer’s!

I have sent a copy of this column to the Alzheimer’s Association of Southern California. Perhaps you might do likewise in your area. 

If drugs won’t prevent or curtail Alzheimer’s, perhaps using good old logic and relevant observations can point the way, and make the difference.

As an aside issue, perhaps casino mogul Sheldon Adelson will change his opinion that poker is just another form of gambling. 

Keep playing poker, stay alert, and keep thinking. No Alzheimer’s for us!

I refer you to the recent book by Dr. Alan N. Schoonmaker, poker’s most eminent psychologist: “Stay Young – Play Poker” (Kindle, $2.99).

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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