Unpleasant surprises

"Life is full of surprises. A Nobel Prize winner, Kao is also an Alzheimer's patient."

This is what Gwen Kao Wong May-wan, the wife of the Nobel winner Charles Kao Kuen said during the naming ceremony of the Charles K. Kao Auditorium a couple of days ago.

Wong added that she hoped the award will provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the disease and it will generate support services for patients with cognitive loss and the training of their caretakers.

It is tragic that the Charles Kao who attended the ceremony is a completely different person from the scientist who won himself a Nobel Prize, due to Alzheimer's disease, which has robbed him of his memory and judgement. It is equally tragic that so many people, Kao's wife included, just focus on taking care of Alzheimer patients and seem to overlook the importance and possibility of preventing the disease. As John Robbins says in his book Healthy at 100: "Our inability to cure or effectively treat Alzheimer's makes prevention all the more important".

The big question is: Can the disease be effectively prevented? According to scientific and medical studies, the answer is a resounding 'Yes'. And the solutions are incredibly simple: Do exercise; eat well ('well' meaning a whole-foods, plant-based diet high in antioxidants). Unfortunately, far too many people, whether they are or are not aware of the full range of benefits of exercise and a healthy diet, do not take the advice. It appears that remaining dormant and eating junk or unhealthy food are a lifestyle that people are always going to prefer, even though sooner or later it brings about suffering that is completely unnecessary.

That sort of suffering is probably the surprises Kao's wife was referring to. Sadly, they are not pleasant ones.

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