In the latest episode of the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life Kyle and Jeff talk about some promising developments in an Alzheimer's vaccine. We also visit with Huntsman World Senior Games athlete Janice Heller. Janice played on one of the original women’s softball teams at the Games and continues to play to this day. She’s got a great story to tell. Check it out at Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life podcast

 

Kyle Case:
[Music 00:00:04]

Kyle Case:
Hello and welcome to the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life. My name is Kyle Case, and I'll be your host on this amazing journey as we attempt to help you get the most out of your life. Joining me in the studio today is my copilot, Jeff Harding. Jeff, how are you doing today,

Jeff Harding:
Kyle, there is sunshine in my soul.

Kyle Case:
Oh, so you're doing good.

Jeff Harding:
And outside too.

Kyle Case:
And outside too. That's awesome. I'm doing well as well.

Jeff Harding:
I was going to ask you, how are you doing?

Kyle Case:
Yeah, yeah, I'm feeling good. I'm looking forward to the games coming up. Before we know what they'll be here.

Jeff Harding:
Oh boy, they're coming fast.

Kyle Case:
Lots of good stuff going on for sure. It's still summertime though, and you can't help but just love what goes on. Family reunions, good weather, swimming. All the great things.

Jeff Harding:
People from all over the world coming to visit.

Kyle Case:
All good things.

Jeff Harding:
Yup. All good things.

Kyle Case:
All good things. So Jeff, over the years that we've been doing the show, we've spent, I don't know, I'd say a fair amount of time talking about cognitive degeneration, dementia, Alzheimer's. These are topics that, they're not very fun to talk about, but we are concerned. Yeah, we need to be aware of them. We need to recognize some of the challenges that they are. It's kind of a big deal. It affects people, whether it affects the individual personally or peripherally through their family or whatever, a lot of people are going to be touched by dementia or Alzheimer's in one way or another. So when I saw this article, I knew that we had to show it. I had to share it today.

Jeff Harding:
Well, great. What is this?

Kyle Case:
So listen to this is kind of big news. It's really brand new. It's hot off the presses. But researchers at the University of New Mexico believe that they have found a way to prevent Alzheimer's disease.

Jeff Harding:
It's not April fool's day. so this has got to be true.

Kyle Case:
No, this is a real deal. This is the real deal now.

Jeff Harding:
It's amazing.

Kyle Case:
That being said, they're a ways away from ... they're still going through the clinical trials and all those kinds of things. In fact, they're still animal trials right now. But they're finding some really pretty interesting stuff. The University of New Mexico's health and science department, Associate Professor Kiran Bhaskar. He's been passionate about studying the disease for the last decade. He says that the search for a cure started with an idea that he had back in 2013 and that idea has developed into potentially a vaccine.

Jeff Harding:
Wow.

Kyle Case:
So Bhaskar he and his team have started to test that vaccine on mice. As I said, they're in the animal trial stages. They used a group of mice that had Alzheimer's and they injected them with a series of injections with the vaccine. The vaccines are designed to target a specific protein that they call Tau and it's commonly found in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. We know that in Alzheimer's patients, they have this plaque or this build up of these proteins. That's what they're referring to as Tau. So far their results have been pretty promising.

Jeff Harding:
So it's like taking a toothbrush to your brain.

Kyle Case:
Cleaning it up.

Jeff Harding:
Clean the plaque off. Yeah.

Kyle Case:
Yeah. So the antibodies in the vaccine seem to have cleared out using the pathological Tau.

Jeff Harding:
That's amazing.

Kyle Case:
Pathological Tau is one of the components of these tangles that they're fat that they're finding in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease. They're finding that the positive response from this vaccine is lasting for months in the mice.

Kyle Case:
Now again, I want to reiterate that they're a ways away from human trials and those types of clinical trials, but they're working on it and they're finding that the long tangles in the brain's neurons, we know that disrupts the ability of the neurons to communicate one with another. That's one of the problems with Alzheimer's and dementia. The mice are then giving after the administration of the vaccine, the mice are then given a series of maze-like tests and they're finding, Jeff, that the mice that received the vaccine performed a lot better than those that didn't.

Jeff Harding:
Wow.

Kyle Case:
Despite that, the researchers say that it's not a complete success just yet. Being able to get the vaccine to people will take time. In fact, it'll probably still take several years and will cost up to $1 billion. So there's going to be a significant investment before it's available to us as humans. At any step along that process, they may find a problem and it may not make it through the gamut that it has to go through.

Jeff Harding:
So just to clarify: Is the $1 billion the cost to get the vaccine or the cost to perfect the vaccine?

Kyle Case:
Well, I think yes to both of them. Right? It's going to be expensive in both cases. I hope it's not $1 billion per dose. But anyway, testing in small groups is going to cost some money. Right now the researchers are looking for partnerships to help them move forward towards a clinical-grade vaccine and once they develop that vaccine and find that it's safe for humans, of course, they'll have to submit it to the FDA for approval. That could take another several year. So it's a ways away, but I think it's worth noting that that is something we'll want to keep our eyes for the future.

Jeff Harding:
And on the [crosstalk 00:05:05], that's pretty amazing.

Kyle Case:
Yeah, and again, that's such a devastating disease. Any progress that we're finding on that is kind of exciting news. You did say it's the University of New Mexico, right?

Jeff Harding:
The University of New Mexico.

Kyle Case:
So why don't they just go to Roswell and ask those intergalactic visitors if it's going to work or not because they should be able to tell us?

Jeff Harding:
Maybe they could. That's just right next door. Maybe they should check it out with the aliens there, right?

Kyle Case:
Yes.

Jeff Harding:
Yes, right. You picked up on my joke.

Kyle Case:
I got your joke. I don't know that it was one of your best, but I got it.

Jeff Harding:
No, but I had to think about it for a while.

Kyle Case:
So today's guest, Jeff, is one of our amazing athletes at the Huntsman World Senior Games. Her name is Janice Heller. Janice started participating in softball at the Games in 2001 which happened to be the first year that women's softball was offered at the games and she's been a true example of living the active life throughout her life. We're excited to have Janice join us today. Welcome.

Janice Heller:
Well, thank you very much, Kyle.

Kyle Case:
We're excited to get to know you a little bit more and understand kind of your active life and how you've been able to stay active. Let's talk about softball first off, just because you're kind of one of those historic first-class participants.

Janice Heller:
Okay. First-Class meaning the first year for ladies, I'm sure.

Kyle Case:
And the other meaning of first class as well.

Janice Heller:
Great. Well, I started playing softball, senior softball, when I lived in Michigan, which was quite a few years. We only had one division then 50 years old. For a few years, we'd been playing pretty much in the Midwest. Michigan, Ohio, parts of New York, that's not Midwest, New York, Pennsylvania. Then our coach found an ad and it was talking about the Huntsman Games in St George, Utah. This might be hard to believe, but not everybody knew where St George, Utah was.

Kyle Case:
That sure is.

Jeff Harding:
Unbelievable.

Janice Heller:
Anyway, we gave it a try to see how it would go. I think the first year, I can't remember if it was seven or eight teams, it was strictly a round robin format.

Kyle Case:
Everybody played everybody.

Janice Heller:
One age division, you just showed up. So we played everybody and by golly, we won every game. So we won the gold medal. As I mentioned before, I was hooked. It was a great experience.

Kyle Case:
Janice, congratulations. How cool is that, to have won the inaugural gold medal for women's softball.

Janice Heller:
It felt very special.

Jeff Harding:
That is historic.

Kyle Case:
Now over the past several years, women's softball has grown dramatically at the Huntsman World Senior games.

Janice Heller:
It sure has. I don't know how many teams there were last year.

Kyle Case:
We had over a hundred teams last year that registered and this year we have even more women's softball teams. Softball happens to be our biggest sport at the Huntsman World Senior Games. If you combine both the men's and the women's, we're at over 350 total teams. But the women will make up about 115 to 120 of those total teams.

Janice Heller:
Awesome.

Kyle Case:
So it's grown into certainly a prestigious event of its own. Since that time, we've been able to add age divisions and even some skill levels as well. So the playing field has become not only larger, which it has become much larger, but it's also become more level and fairer so that in an ideal situation, you're playing against teams of your own skill level.

Janice Heller:
Well, this year I'm going to play in the 70s. I believe I've seen friends play at the 75 levels. I don't know if it goes any higher than that.

Kyle Case:
So there's no limit at the games of what we'll accept, but it just comes down to how many teams can we get, right? So a 70s and 75s are where we're at with the women. We've actually had the 80s and a few 85-year-olds for the men's. But it's just an amazing, amazing undertaking and just a ton of fun being a part of and to watch. I'm sure from a player standpoint, you can attest it's just a lot of fun to play.

Janice Heller:
Absolutely. But also from a spectator's point of view, I volunteer for softball at the Canyons Complex. I drive a shuttle, one of the little golf cart shuttles that drive the team down from the parking lot and back. The 80 and 85s especially appreciate those rides back up the hill to the parking lot. It's amazing how so many of those men can still play well.

Kyle Case:
Well, and you've touched on just a really important aspect of the Huntsman World Senior Games and that is the volunteerism and the volunteers that do make the games possible. We couldn't do it without that volunteer help.

Janice Heller:
Boy, I agree with that. The first year we came, that was one of the things we noticed was the number of volunteers. Then the volunteers that you get, Kyle, are all smiling. It really is nice. We had never been to tournaments where we were offered snacks like slices of bread during the game or the water was kept filled. We were amazed.

Kyle Case:
Right. The fruit baskets and all those things that go out to the athletes and all of those services, specifically as you're talking them softball, but all across the board for all 32 of our sports, so many of those services are just handled by, as you say, smiling, happy, friendly volunteers. In fact, it takes about 3000 volunteers. Many of them are local, but some of them come in with an athlete or even traveling from outside of the area to come and volunteer at the Games. An incredible undertaking, but one that is so important and so vital to the success of the event itself.

Kyle Case:
You're listening to the Huntsman World Senior Games, active life. We're visiting with Huntsman World Senior Games athlete, Janis Heller. Janice has been a softball player at the games from the very beginning when women's softball was offered in 2001 at the Huntsman World Senior Games. Have you ever participated in other sports besides softball?

Janice Heller:
Yes, I have. Here at the Huntsman Games, I've really gotten interested in cycling, so the cycling events, I've done 5k, a triathlon, a few 5k runs, that sort of thing. It's not scary, for me, any way to participate in the Huntsman Games because everybody is so pleasant. Nobody's going to kill you if you win something and nobody's going to tell you how bad you are if you don't do well. So I've had the opportunity to try different sports and it's just been a lot of fun.

Kyle Case:
That's cool. I love that you've been able to take advantage of that. You've touched, on again, another really important aspect of the games and that is the friendship and the comradery that happens during the event. We have so many athletes that tell us that they come for the first year because they hear the competition is good and they want to be a part of that sporting competition. But they come back year after year because of those friendships and because of that comradery and Janice, there just really is a special feeling among the athletes at the games.

Janice Heller:
Well, I think so. Part of what I think it relies on is the fact that so many of us are going through the same ... not Problems.

Kyle Case:
Challenges?

Janice Heller:
Challenges in our lives. Okay? It could be health right now, for instance. But we've also gone through some wonderful things. We all have grandchildren to talk about, we have traveling to talk about. It's just amazing how we'll find people who've done the same things we have or can maybe add to our travel plans in the future. It is true camaraderie. It makes you feel so good.

Kyle Case:
Now you mentioned some of the challenges and certainly we all deal with challenges in our lives at different times and different levels, different things that are going on in life. Life's a journey certainly, and it can be challenging. You were faced with a kind of a significant challenge several years ago that you thought may have waylaid your career. Tell us a little about that.

Janice Heller:
I did. Oddly enough, when I turned 60, I was diagnosed with type one diabetes. That used to be called juvenile diabetes. Anyway, I was diagnosed with type one diabetes and my first, my worst symptom when was when I woke up one morning and I couldn't see. I thought that pretty much sealed the deal for me that I wouldn't be able to continue on with a normal life. Part of which at that time was working, you have to be able to read to work. I couldn't do that. But with the help of the right professionals and education and doing what I'm supposed to do, eating like I'm supposed to, things turned around and I'm feeling really, really good. I just attended my grandson's high school graduation, which I thought would not be possible. I feel great and things are going well and I hope I can take that to the softball field next week.

Kyle Case:
I hope that you can as well. So obviously you were able to recover your vision.

Janice Heller:
Yes, I did. I still have some issues with it. Dealing with diabetes as anybody with diabetes knows is an ongoing process, it's like on an hourly basis. But I feel very fortunate that I haven't been diagnosed with a more serious problem like some of our friends have had that could lead to death or they've lost their spouses due to other illnesses. So I feel really good about that.

Kyle Case:
Diabetes is definitely a continual journey for sure. We have it in our family. My sister was diagnosed when she was a child with juvenile diabetes. So she's had it her whole life long and with the proper care and the proper education, it is controllable, but it is constant. It is always there. We've lived through some scary times with her.

Janice Heller:
I bet you have.

Kyle Case:
And we've seen some things there, but for the most part, she's been able to keep it in under control. It sounds like you've been able to as well. Are you insulin dependent? Do you have to take shots every day?

Janice Heller:
Yes. Yeah. I use insulin every day and I monitor my glucose level constantly. I have a continuous glucose monitor. I don't know if your sister does.

Kyle Case:
Yeah, she does.

Janice Heller:
But that helps. So I don't have to stop every five minutes and check my level. I do find when I'm exercising, I have to watch my level very closely. But also, exercising helps me control my level. So the more I bike, the more I walk, the more I play softball, the more my doctor loves me.

Kyle Case:
Which I think is great.

Jeff Harding:
[crosstalk 00:15:21] We do want our doctors to love us.

Kyle Case:
We do indeed. I think that's such a great lesson. You came up against this wall and it seemed like it was the end of everything from an active standpoint. The reality is that being active is what has been able to help you through it.

Janice Heller:
Yes. So it works a couple of ways. It helps me with my glucose management and it helps my brain, my emotional side, it makes me feel better.

Kyle Case:
There are so many benefits to just getting out and being active. We've found so many studies and shared so much information about how closely connected your heart and your brain are. So anytime you're out there doing something cardiovascular, that's heart-related, but it also is so beneficial to your brain, not only from a physical standpoint, which it is. The blood that's flowing through your heart and your lungs and going into your brain is keeping that muscle strength if you will. But emotionally and spiritually and psychologically there are so many benefits to being active.

Janice Heller:
I totally agree. I totally agree. What better place to be able to go outside than in this area, in the St George area.

Kyle Case:
Yeah, absolutely. We do have some incredibly beautiful vistas and just amazing opportunities for outdoor recreation. But wherever you may find yourself, there are opportunities to get active and to get engaged. It just comes down to making the decision to live that kind of lifestyle.

Janice Heller:
Well, and I'm lucky. I love to exercise and be outside. So for me, it hasn't been difficult.

Kyle Case:
So you've participated in sports for most of your life, were you able to play in high school any organized sports?

Janice Heller:
Yes, fortunately, we did have sports. I grew up on the East Coast. A lot of my Midwest friends didn't have any women's girls high school sports. But I played field hockey, basketball, and women's Lacrosse. So those really helped me get through high school.

Kyle Case:
Yeah, absolutely. As you said, not everybody had those opportunities. So you're quite lucky to be able to have played some organized sports as a young woman in those times. I'm wondering if you could share maybe one of life's big lessons that you've learned through participation in sports.

Janice Heller:
Well, I probably would have to go back to the camaraderie. I've always been exceptionally competitive and people would say, "Oh, play for the love of the game and all that." And I didn't necessarily ...

Kyle Case:
I'm playing to win this thing!

Janice Heller:
Yeah, I didn't always buy into that. But I will tell you after starting with the senior softball and I was just under 50 when I started. Women were going through certain stages of their life and we'd talk about it. They had children that were leaving the house. We talked about it and I just came to realize more than the people I was playing with and against were still very nice people and we all had the same issues or the same wonderful things going on in our lives and we could share those. So now when I see people that I met 20 years ago, we just, "Hi, how are you? What team are you playing on this year?" I think the camaraderie, the friendship, and realizing that you can have really truly had a good time whether you win or lose has been good for me.

Kyle Case:
What a great lesson, truly a great lesson for all of us. Again you've just, highlighted one of the great things about participation at the Huntsman World Senior Games, that family reunion connecting aspect. Interestingly enough, they've done a lot of studies and have found that social connections are perhaps the most important indicator of living a long and healthy life. So we talk a lot about being active and we talked about resistance training and we talk about getting that heart rate up and all those things are important. I'm certainly not downplaying any of that, but to have social interaction really is a huge indicator of the kind of quality of life, but also the length of life that we're going to lead. The Huntsman World Senior Games and other events like the games allow so much social interaction that it just makes us feel good being a part of it.

Janice Heller:
Well, I agree. Even if you're kind of a by yourself person and you want to be by yourself, all the people at the Huntsman games will never allow you to feel alone.

Kyle Case:
I think that's the greatest compliment that the event can be paid.

Jeff Harding:
Truly it is.

Kyle Case:
So you've been participating for quite a while at the games, at least since 2001. That was the first time that you competed at the Games, 2001?

Janice Heller:
Yes, it is.

Kyle Case:
So it's been a few years. Any memories that stand out over these past several years about competing or volunteering at the games?

Janice Heller:
Okay. Well the very first memory I have and all my friends will come up with the same thing, I think. The first year we were out here in 2001, we had one of those early morning games. The sun was just coming up over the cliffs behind the canyon's complex. We literally stopped our game and turned to look on the cliffs because there was a line of horseback riders up there, complete with cowboy hats. The sun was in the back of them and they were silhouetted. That was something that we did not see in the Midwest. We were just blown away. I mean we literally stopped the Games.

Jeff Harding:
Something out of a John Wayne movie.

Janice Heller:
Absolutely, so that was one very strong memory. I also, probably from the volunteering, it's getting into the point now where I drive my little golf cart and pick people up. The fellows remember me from prior years. They say, "Well, where were you yesterday? I needed you yesterday," so we're getting to know each other. A team from Hawaii, a team from Japan, all these other teams, getting to become friends I think.

Janice Heller:
This year we have some of the gals from our teams staying with us and one of them has asked me to sign her up as a volunteer. She's coming in early so that she can drive a golf cart, too.

Kyle Case:
How great is that? Now, this coming week you have a softball tournament coming up at the National Senior Games, a similar event. We are a member of the National Senior Games Association and proud to be a member of that great organization that helps people stay active in their senior years. You're playing softball, is that correct?

Janice Heller:
Yes. I'm playing softball in the 70 division with my team from Michigan.

Kyle Case:
Wonderful. You'll also be carrying the Utah Flag representing the athletes from Utah at their opening ceremony.

Janice Heller:
Yeah. I'm really excited and I just got all the directions on what I'm supposed to do. Did you want to say something? Anyway, I'm very pleased and honored to be carrying the Utah flag. I'm going to carry it as the woman and then there'll be a gentleman also carrying. Just the idea of getting there and holding up my sign. "Okay, Utah. Come on over here. Line up." And then marching and very proudly now as a Utahan.

Kyle Case:
Wonderful. Wonderful. Well, we're very excited to have you representing our games and the State of Utah at that event. What would you give as advice to someone who's sitting on the fence and trying to decide whether or not they want to participate in a sport?

Janice Heller:
Oh golly, go for it. Because at the Huntsman games you can do something very passive. Even if it's just taking a walk with the mayor or someone or square dancing or bridge. It doesn't have to be physically active. But try something you haven't done and just do it at your level. If you do a 5k run, for instance, if you've been on the fence about jogging and so on, you will find 90-year-olds doing the best they can to run and may be surrounded by their family to give them support. Just try something, get out there and see what the competition's about. You don't have to be a heavy competitor. Just give it a go. Try something new. Maybe you've done something else. I want to get back into archery and I'm dying to try that. Just try something new.

Kyle Case:
I think that's about the best advice that you could ever offer.

Jeff Harding:
Perfect advice.

Kyle Case:
Wonderful. Janice, thank you so much for joining us today. We appreciate your memories and your stories and your expertise and we just wish you the very best of luck in your upcoming tournaments and can't wait to watch you playing softball once again at the Huntsman World Senior Games in October.

Janice Heller:
Well, thank you very much and I'm really looking forward to that and I may see you at the Albuquerque Games, the National Senior Games.

Kyle Case:
We'll be there. We'll be there, so hopefully, we'll run into each other.

Janice Heller:
Thank you, Kyle.

Kyle Case:
Awesome. Jeff, it's June.

Jeff Harding:
Yes, it is.

Kyle Case:
It's the end of June now.

Jeff Harding:
Yes, it is.

Kyle Case:
That means that it's time to register.

Jeff Harding:
You better get it done.

Kyle Case:
At the Huntsman World Senior Games. If you want to join Janice and be an athlete at the Huntsman World Senior Games, it's very easy to do. All you have to do is visit seniorgames.net. Click on that register tab. The process itself is very simple. It's fast and secure, and before you know it, you'll be ready to become one of more than 11,000 athletes who will compete this year at the Huntsman World Senior Games. The dates for the 2019 games are October 7th through the 19th put that on your calendar. Visit seniorgames.net get yourself registered, be a part of this amazing event.

Kyle Case:
Also, remember to tune in live next to and every Thursday at 5:30 PM Mountain Time on AM 1450 or FM 93.1 for the Huntsman World Senior Games active life. You can also subscribe to our podcast pretty much anywhere that podcasts are found, whether that's on your Google play, your iTunes, or I guess Apple podcast. I think they've just changed the name to that now, Stitcher, wherever you get your podcasts, you can find us there. Once you've subscribed, give us a rating, write a quick review. You really can make a difference in helping us spread the word. You can also find this as well as previous episodes, right on our website. Once again, that website is senior games.net so check it out.

Kyle Case:
Jeff, our inspirational quote for the day. I like this one.

Jeff Harding:
Okay.

Kyle Case:
You can't always choose the music life plays for us, but we can choose how we dance to it.

Jeff Harding:
And some of us dance pretty funky, but yeah.

Kyle Case:
Until next Thursday, stay active.

Jeff Harding:
Bye, everyone.

Jeff Harding:
[music 00:25:40]