As a blogger, I receive a ton of emails from the public relations industry trying to promote one study, sale or item or another. Many are crap, but every once in a while I get knocked to my knees. This was one of those times.
The press release began:
WHY: EVERY 66 SECONDS, SOMEONE IN THE UNITED STATES IS DIAGNOSED WITH ALZHEIMER’S, AND 2/3 OF THEM ARE WOMEN.
Those who know me, know that my mother – a college professor for 47 years and the smartest woman I’ve ever known – is battling dementia. And one thing I’ve learned in the past year or more, is that it is a disease that affects the entire family, not just the patient. I’ve cried a lot. Even though my mother still knows me, she’s not the same. I miss my Mommy. I also worry about my father. He’s a very young 90 years old, but 90 years old nonetheless. He’s living in the big house I grew up in and visiting my mother several times per week. He has yet to join a support group of any sort.
When you have a close relative diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (I honestly don’t know the difference), you can’t help but worry – Am I going to get this too? Am I looking at my future? Is there any way to prevent this? It is a paralyzing, devastating thought – and one that I feel guilty and selfish for thinking – since, after all, it’s about my mother, not me, right?
Move For Minds is an annual charitable event founded by Maria Shriver benefiting the Women’s Alzheimer Movement. It was held in 8 cities across the country yesterday.
The Press Release said this:
WHAT: MANHATTAN WOMEN JOINING WOMEN ACROSS THE COUNTRY AT MOVE FOR MINDS® TO CHALLENGE THEIR BODY AND BRAIN, LEARN WHY ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE HAS BECOME A WOMEN’S DISEASE AND TO RAISE FUNDS FOR WOMEN’S BRAIN-SCIENCE RESEARCH. IT’S HIGH-ENERGY EXERCISE, MEDITATION, EDUCATION AND COMRADERY.
WHO: NBC NEWSWOMAN HODA KOTB HOSTS MARIA SHRIVER AND EQUINOX’S ANNUAL MOVE FOR MINDS EXPERIENCE, BRINGING TOGETHER WOMEN FROM ACROSS THE COUNTRY TO CREATE GREATER AWARENESS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE. SPECIAL GUESTS INCLUDE . . . BESTSELLING AUTHOR DR. RICHARD ISAACSON (“THE ALZHEIMER’S DIET”), TELEVISION PERSONALITY/ FILMMAKER/
JOURNALIST MAX LUGAVERE, JOURNALIST JAY NEWTON-SMALL, DR. WENDY SUZUKI AND DR. ANAFIDELIA TAVARES.
I forwarded the press release to my sisters. They immediately wrote back: Kathy, ARE YOU GOING?
I wrote the woman who sent the email and asked if I could attend. The answer was YES.
So, Sunday morning, I ran a few miles on my own in Central Park and then headed over to the Equinox Sports Club on Columbus Avenue and 68th Street. It’s a gorgeous club, by the way.
I checked in and followed the signs to the large gymnasium where the first half of the event (the “exercise portion”) took place.
There were yoga mats set up throughout the room. The participants took their place and there was a series of introductions by various organizers and representatives. Dan Gasby, husband of supermodel B. Smith (who has early onset Alzheimer’s Disease) spoke eloquently and from his heart. This is what he had to say:
We were told, among other things, that one of the most important things you can do to prevent Alzheimer’s is exercise. Exercise trains both the body and the brain! And, with that, for the next hour, we were divided into 5 groups, and moved around the room to the five stations each led by top Equinox instructors. The workout was hard. Nothing was typical. So, even if I couldn’t get everything right from a physical perspective – I learned not to be embarrassed as I was still exercising my brain!
When the workout portion of the program was over we went into an adjoining room. On one side, there were promotional materials, and sponsor tables. There were also brain-healthy snacks and lunch.
Before the panel discussion began, there was a video greeting from Maria Shriver. Hoda Kotb (of NBC -TV) MC’ed the discussion. Everyone in the room (or so it seemed) had a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease. We collectively shook our heads with empathy when someone told his or her story.
The discussion was enlightening. There was so much sharing of medical information, nutritional information, community activism, information for caregivers, and so much more. I learned a lot. There was a lot of encouraging information too.
I texted my siblings throughout the discussion. I had to share what I was learning with them. Each revelation got another text.
- Having the Alzheimer’s gene does not mean you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease! Your genes do not determine your fate!
- Don’t stop exercising – and take some group classes. Trying new routines is healthy.
- Eat good food, challenge your brain, reduce stress and get good sleep!
- Follow a mediterranean-like diet
- Use plenty of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Eat Beans! (really).
- Stay engaged – interact with people, use your brain.
While I was sitting there in New York, my sister in Boston actually went out shopping to Whole Foods and bought lots of heart- (and brain-) healthy foods. She came home and put the cans of beans in the front of her cabinet!
I felt a bit renewed – maybe I won’t get this disease? Maybe I can retain some control over my destiny. I think Alzheimer’s can be isolating and depressing, not only to the patient, but also to the entire family. We get stuck. It’s terrifying. This lifted us up. It gave us hope. But we have a job to do – and we need to help make sure that studies and funding continue, so breakthroughs can happen!
And then, Hoda jumped up! Ah, her baby was in the audience, and she ran over and brought her to the front. Such love is a beautiful thing!
I think it was serendipitous that I got that email on Friday!
Exercise is the best thing you can do to keep – not only your heart healthy – but also your brain healthy. So, even if you are getting older, or slower, don’t stop. Keep going. Change your workout – but don’t stop exercising!!