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Am I at Risk for Alzheimer’s?

Joan and Shirley don’t know each other, but they’d enjoyed similar careers. Each was a well-respected accountant who became Chief Financial Officer of her organization. After years of demanding work, each retired about seven years ago.

Joan followed her passion for fly fishing and now has her own TV program. She’s having a ball.

Shirley watches TV all day. She needs constant care in a nursing home. Shirley has Alzheimer’s.

So why is Joan living the good life and Shirley doesn’t know what life she is living? There’s evidence that it might be, in part, because Joan took care of her brain and Shirley didn’t even realize she needed to.

In her forties, Joan noticed she was gaining weight and slowing down. About the same time, her older brother had a mild heart attack and took early retirement. That was enough for Joan. She installed a machine in her family room and exercised every morning. As she was developing an interest in fly fishing at the time, she started watching instructional videos while exercising. She used the same approach to learn Spanish as she prepared for fishing trips to Costa Rica and Argentina. Combining exercising with learning worked well for Joan.

Shirley also gained weight in her forties, but she was too busy to exercise. In her fifties, her doctor warned that her blood pressure was elevated and she should change her lifestyle. Shirley tried, but her job required regular travel and entertaining, so exercising and adjusting her diet was difficult. About five years before she retired, her new boss turned out to be a bully. Shirley stood up to him, but the stress took a toll and she developed full-blown high blood pressure.

When Joan had found herself in a particularly stressful period at work, she recruited a coach to help tackle her problems with less stress. At retirement, Joan started walking 30 minutes a day and weight lifting three times a week. She started thinking about the benefits of fly fishing. She decided to encourage more women, especially those recovering from cancer, to take up the sport. Gradually her interest built into a weekly TV program and a reputation as an expert.

Watch this YouTube video by Dr. Helena Popovic called “A Daughter’s Determination to Defeat Dementia”. It will give you loads of valuable information that Shirley needed, but never received.

By the time Shirley retired, her doctor was encouraging her to lose 20 pounds and get her blood pressure under control. She tried for a while, and then decided it was time to see the world. Over the next two years, she visited Australia, Africa, and Europe. But it was difficult to exercise regularly and she gained another 10 pounds. One day in Italy, she tripped on cobblestones and broke an ankle. When she got home her ankle had to be operated on and the bone pinned. It took six months to heal. She kept meaning to exercise more. She even joined a gym. But during her convalescence she had gained more pounds and was uncomfortable about her appearance. She abandoned the gym.

In their early forties, Joan and Shirley had equal risk factors for Alzheimer’s. But, as they grew older, Shirley’s risk factors increased while Joan’s stayed level.

Resolve that during 2014, you will reduce your risk factors for Alzheimer’s by:

  • Taking a brisk walk, swim, run, or stair climb every other day
  • Reducing your risks of hypertension or diabetes, by reaching your goal weight
  • Learning something that engages and challenges you weekly, if not daily

It was well over 2,000 years ago when China’s Yellow Emperor wrote,

“Maintaining order rather than correcting disorder is the ultimate principle of wisdom. To cure a disease after it has manifest is like digging a well when one feels thirsty, or forging a weapon when the war has already begun.”

You might want to read Halina St. James’ article after she met Dr. Popovic at the Global Speakers Summit in Vancouver last December.

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