You Can’t Exercise Yourself Away from Alzheimer’s

happy old guyThis really stinks.

I like puzzles. I like games. I exercise a good six days a week. And now I find out that all of that stuff has been a total waste. My brain, it seems, is still going to atrophy into a mess of cottage cheese.

According to a recent study, those activities, long suspected to stave off Alzheimer’s, do not seem to have the effects that would indicate progress in that direction.

Physical and mental activity don’t appear to prevent the brain from developing the telltale beta-amyloid deposits that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

If you’re confused, think of it like this. High blood pressure doesn’t actually hurt you, but it leads to nasty things like strokes and heart attacks. Since you don’t want to wait around to have a stroke to see if a treatment helps, reduced blood pressure is a good indicator that a treatment is helping.

So if you want to do your sudoku, play Clash of Clans, or pump iron, do it for its own benefits and not to hold Alzheimer’s at bay.

What Will Stop Harriete? What Will Stop You?

Late last month, Harriete Thompson earned the inestimable right to plaster a 26.2 sticker on the back of her car. She finished a marathon. Finishing a marathon is no small feat for anyone. I’ve never done it. I do plan to give it a go in October, but I haven’t done it yet. I know I can, but I know it won’t be a simple thing.

Harriete Thompson has now done it 16 times, all of them in the San Diego Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. How do you finish a marathon? Harriete might (or might not) give this two-step process to finishing.

  1. Cross the starting line. That means sign up and begin the race.
  2. Don’t stop until you cross the finish line.

Easy, right? You have to start and then not stop until you’re done. Harriete has followed that prescription 16 times. She never let anything stop her. Her time, 7:24:36, won’t impress most people, but there are some details about this lady.

  • Harriete is 92 years old, the oldest woman ever to complete a marathon. She could have let her advanced age stop her, but she didn’t.
  • Her husband of 67 years died last years. She could have let the grief and disruption put an end to her racing, but she didn’t.
  • Harriete is a two-time cancer survivor, having battled skin and jaw cancers. She could have let that legacy stop her, but she didn’t.
  • She didn’t even start this activity until she was in her mid-70s, an age when most people are looking for the best place to park their recliners. She could have let that stop her before she started, but she didn’t.

Someday Harriete Thompson will stop running/walking marathons. Someday she’ll pass from this life, but until those days come, if past experience is any indication, she’ll keep pushing forward.

You and I will someday be unable to do the things that we want to do, eventually succumbing to death. That’s the nature of life. Harriete Thompson seems to see life as something to be lived as fully as possible for as long as the body allows.

Why should any of the rest of us do any less?

Senior Happy Meals

happy old guy
Not one of my in-laws

My in-laws, both in their seventies, don’t eat all that well. Part of the issue is cultural, both of them having been brought up where if it wasn’t fried, it wasn’t food, but part of it is age-related. Knocking together a salad or a pot of pasta or somesuch, a simple task when you’re 30 or 50, can become a major ordeal for the older person. My mother, 94 years old, struggles with opening jars and lifting some bowls, even when they’re empty. A story on NPR recently brought this nutritional challenge to my mind.

A healthy diet is good for everyone. But as people get older, cooking nutritious food can become difficult and sometimes physically impossible. A pot of soup can be too heavy to lift. And there’s all that time standing on your feet. It’s one of the reasons that people move into assisted living facilities.

The story revolved around a company that sends chefs into senior’s homes to cook a week worth of meals for them. Having listened while driving, I didn’t have pen and paper at hand, but the cash flow of this business didn’t seem to make sense. If I’m figuring it right, these chefs are bringing in a whopping $360 a week on average. Presumably they have a restaurant job to rely on.

But since Chefs for Seniors has not made it to most cities around the country, the great senior nutrition challenge falls to the seniors themselves or their friends and families.

What a great service a church or just a good neighbor could do by ensuring that not only do healthy groceries make it into the house but that those foods are prepared or accessible. What does that mean? Perhaps it means pre-packaging some meals that can be popped into the microwave. Maybe it involves cutting up produce. It might simply require putting some pickles or other jar-dwelling food into something easier to open.

When Jesus said “Feed my sheep,” He did not mean primarily to feed them food, but I’m fairly certain that He didn’t intend to neglect that. Preparing healthy food for those who struggle to do it themselves might not lengthen their lives but it will surely improve their lives and bless you at the same time.