There are some very specific benefits to staying fit, especially as we age. Jef and Michelle hit the highlights. We also visit with Mike Miller with the Alzheimer's Association. He shares some important information about cognitive health. Check out our podcast The Huntsman World Senior Games.
Speaker 1: Jeremiah was a bullfrog, was a good friend of mine. I never understood a single-
Jeff Harding: Hello and welcome to the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life, my name is Jeff Harding, I'm sitting in for Kyle Case. Joining me in studio today is Michelle Graves. Michelle, how are you?
Michelle Graves: Hi Jeff. I am great.
Jeff Harding: It's great to have you back on the show with me because you've been on the show with Kyle but not with me for a while.
Michelle Graves: Yeah, we kind of flip flop. I'm just the fill in wherever needed, so happy to be here.
Jeff Harding: Well, I'm in happy to have you, you always do a great job. Michelle, I know you like to exercise and keep fit. Did you know that according to Money Talks News, there are some amazing benefits to keeping fit, especially after one turns 50, and I know that's important to you because you just had a special birthday.
Michelle Graves: I did and a special little vacation, and I am now according to Huntsman World Senior Games terms a senior.
Jeff Harding: Yes, you are. You-
Michelle Graves: I'm going to own it.
Jeff Harding: So, a researcher ... A research scientist specializing in muscle health and aging tells Money Talks Magazine, excuse me, News, that maintaining muscle health can improve energy levels and mobility, decrease risk of falls and fractures and speed up recovery from illness. We have some ... We have five reasons here that you want to stay in shape, especially after you turn 50. The first one is you'll think more clearly. In addition to building muscles, exercise can help improve brain function. You can improve, you can perform better and remain competitive in the workplace.
Michelle Graves: I was thinking of that. Yeah, I think that's a ... I always say mental health, it helps me with my mental health, but yeah, I love that aspect.
Jeff Harding: They say the magic number is 52 hours of aerobic exercise. After 52 hours you start seeing the improvements in your mind and body of exercising. So you just ... After you ... So you only have to do it, not consecutive, not contiguous.
Michelle Graves: No. There's a big new study that's saying that even if you start exercising in your latter life, you can have the same benefits. So 52 hours is the breaking point, right?
Jeff Harding: Right.
Michelle Graves: So you just-
Jeff Harding: So once you reach that-
Michelle Graves: You catch right back.
Jeff Harding: Muscle and then you're there.
Michelle Graves: Yeah. That's ... I like that. That's great. Okay. Number two says you'll spend less on medical care, which is a big concern these days. Sticking to regular exercise can improve your health, meaning that you'll spend less time and money at the doctors.
Jeff Harding: That's according to the Mayo Clinic. Regular exercise can help prevent or manage a wide range of health problems including health, stroke, high blood pressure, depression, and many types of cancer. And you can save money on life insurance if you stay fit. You can also save money on your life insurance because underwriters base policies on your risks and if you're healthy you have a lower risk, so the cost of insurance is less.
Michelle Graves: Yeah, and I really like that idea that you can save money by working at it. The next one is that you don't need extra equipment or a gym membership. The newest physical activity guidelines for America, for Americans, say the federal government recommends that older adults get a minimum of two and a half hours of moderately intense aerobic exercise each week. So, if you can't buy a gym membership or expensive equipment, you can get fit just by doing your daily routine, walking to the supermarket, taking stairs instead of the elevators.
Jeff Harding: I have to love that.
Michelle Graves: I know. You're really good at this one. Keeping sneakers under your desk for lunch hour walks.
Jeff Harding: I do lunch hour walks, but I just wear the shoes that I'm wearing on my walks.
Michelle Graves: Because you wear tennis shoes most days.
Jeff Harding: Yes, I do.
Michelle Graves: Because we have a great office that way.
Jeff Harding: Yes we do.
Michelle Graves: Okay. Ride a exercise bike while you watch TV and everyday activities such as gardening or housework contribute to fitness too. So count it, I think is what it's saying. Count that movement.
Jeff Harding: All movement's good.
Michelle Graves: Yes.
Jeff Harding: The last one is you'll feel happier. There's a strong connection between physical fitness and happiness. In addition to boosting your energy, exercise can elevate your mood. Physical activity stimulates brain chemicals that can make you feel more relaxed and reduce anxiety. The Mayo Clinic reports as a bonus that you may feel better about your appearance, raising your self esteem.
Michelle Graves: Yeah. When you look better, you feel better. When you feel better, you look better. That idea.
Jeff Harding: Right, I think there's some truth to that.
Michelle Graves: Absolutely.
Jeff Harding: It makes sense. Well, those are the five tips that we've got, and I think there's some great ones. Joining us in studio today from the Alzheimer's Association, we have Mike Miller. Mike, Welcome.
Mike Miller: Hey, good afternoon. Good to be here. Nice to be on the show today.
Jeff Harding: Mike, you're the regional representative, or director of the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, correct?
Mike Miller: Right. I'm down here in St. George, in our office, and we're serving a five county area, which we opened up last August.
Jeff Harding: Well, great. Mike moved from Ohio last June to be close to his granddaughter and for the warmer weather, and he's anxious to fish for trout in Utah stream this summer because you have to go north to do that? You can't do that down here.
Mike Miller: I understand. Yeah, but I still keep waiting for that warm weather everybody promised. This just hasn't happened so far.
Jeff Harding: Well, it's warmer than you were in [inaudible 00:04:45].
Mike Miller: That's true. I've escaped the polar vortex, I'm happy about that.
Michelle Graves: And it's coming, and before you know it, you may not like it as much.
Jeff Harding: You'll be wondering what happened to the cold weather, yeah.
Michelle Graves: Yes.
Jeff Harding: So let's talk a little about Alzheimer's. That's a disease that strikes fear into the heart of most people I think.
Mike Miller: It does. It's that diagnosis nobody wants, and it's tragic. It's that disease with no cure, or no treatment, and we're trying to uncover what the solution may be to helping people overcome that disease, but at this point, we've not discovered that, so we're working on some lifestyle issues and pouring money into research to keep looking for that cure.
Jeff Harding: Give us an idea of what Alzheimer's is. There's dementia, there's [inaudible 00:05:31]. Not all dementia is Alzheimer's and not Alzheimer's is dementia. What is Alzheimer's?
Mike Miller: All right, Alzheimer's is a form of dementia, and dementia is a general term for memory loss, and a loss of cognitive abilities, but 60 to 80% of dementia cases are Alzheimer's, so a huge part of that. Alzheimer's is not a normal part of aging. That's of those myths that's out there. Everybody sort of has a mindset. "Well, sooner or later I'm going to get Alzheimer's if I live long enough." Not true, so you're in luck. Even you Michelle.
Michelle Graves: Good to know.
Jeff Harding: [crosstalk 00:06:09] much longer to live at this point than I do.
Mike Miller: Okay.
Jeff Harding: Because she's much younger than I.
Michelle Graves: But the average age for dementia is like 65 or something, right?
Mike Miller: That's sort of a tipping point. There's a young onset Alzheimer's, early age, if you will. That's for under 65. There's actually about 200,000 individuals here in the United States with a young onset Alzheimer's. The other 5.2 million or so are over 65 bringing us up to about 5.8 Americans living with Alzheimer's.
Jeff Harding: Well, let me just throw ... Well, just on that point, I had a former neighbor who passed away in her early 50s from Alzheimer's, so it can hit a young person, it doesn't have to be an old person. So don't ... That's a misconception if you think it's only older people. So yeah.
Michelle Graves: Statistically do you know it's like ... Is it like one in 20, or do we know those numbers?
Mike Miller: We do know the numbers. At age 65, one in 10 individuals have Alzheimer's and then it becomes two out of three at 85 and older.
Michelle Graves: Wow.
Mike Miller: It isn't always diagnosed, and that's one of the issues coming into play nowadays that has been around for quite a while. The disease can manifest itself for years and then symptoms may be a little bit more pronounced and then a diagnosis and then the progression of the disease continues, could be over a span of four to 10 years or more.
Michelle Graves: That's interesting.
Mike Miller: Yap. So it's a long time.
Jeff Harding: What happens to the brain when it gets Alzheimer's?
Mike Miller: Well, there's some proteins that are coming into play into the neurological pathways in the brain. Think of that traffic jam in LA or Phoenix at 5:00 PM, when cars aren't moving. When those plaques take over into your brain, those electronic signals to the neurons are not moving, and so as that stops, your memory starts to shut down, your brain start shutting down, and with Alzheimer's early memory is what's going first. You might forget a conversation that you just had two minutes before, and so that's a hallmark of Alzheimer's early brain issues and memory issues.
Mike Miller: So it's really important that people engage their brain over life, and as you're older, pick up some new skills. That doesn't mean just work on a crossword puzzle because that's just pulling words up that you might already have in your vocabulary in mind, but got some props here. You might want to pick up the guitar even though you've never played music. That's going to exercise your brain and that exercise creates more neurological pathways, giving you more options for your brain to work. So learning new things, as you mentioned earlier, exercise is really key because exercise keeps you limber, keeps your mind active, and in addition to physical exercise, socially active people have a much better chance of decreasing their cognitive decline because they're socially active. There's a reason to live. There's people I hope to see, and it's a positive outlook that can really help influence your brain activity.
Jeff Harding: Is heredity ... Does heredity play a role in Alzheimer's or is it just like a non factor? The reason I ask is, my father-in-law's mother had dementia. I don't know whether that's Alzheimer's, had dementia, and he had a brother that died from Alzheimer's, and he's had dementia but not Alzheimer's for 10, 15 years.
Mike Miller: Okay. It can be a factor. Here's the three greatest risk factors that come into play. First one is being age, being over 65, like Michelle mentioned, and there's a gene. It's called the E4 form of the APOE gene.
Jeff Harding: Of course.
Mike Miller: APOE gene, you can look that up.
Michelle Graves: That's easy to remember.
Mike Miller: That's very easy. Yeah, and then you combine that with family history. Those are three things that combine to really increase your chances of having a disease. It's not a guarantee, and that's why a diagnosis is important, and just for instance, there's a couple of other maladies going on that can mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer's. What are they? Dehydration.
Jeff Harding: Well, Gee-
Mike Miller: What happens here in St. George and Southern Utah. Hot summers, people dehydrate. What other symptoms could be something mimicking Alzheimer's? Vitamin B12 deficiency, same type of thing that can occur. Some symptoms are mimicking Alzheimer's. "Oh, Joe's got Alzheimer's." Let's go see the doctor and get a proper diagnosis. Lower blood flow to the brain. That's something that'll slow down your brain and its activity and ability to work, and that's another symptom that if you can get that corrected, which can be corrected, often, then those symptoms go away, and great news, you don't have Alzheimer's. So proper diagnosis is really important here.
Michelle Graves: Talk about ... How does the doctor diagnose it? How do you ... Okay.
Mike Miller: There's some simple tests they can conduct in the office, and even though I'll share a couple of these test protocols, don't try this at home, okay, go to the professionals, but they'll give an individual four or five words and they'll say, "Okay, I'm going to give you these words and we'll talk about them in 15, 20 minutes." And they'll see what the recall level is of those particular words.
Michelle Graves: So it's a cognitive test?
Mike Miller: Cognitive test. Ask an individual to draw a clock and see if they can put those 12 numbers in the circle and then a particular time. That's just an initial test, couple of things like that. And then if there's some indicators that there's some cognitive decline, then we're going to go maybe into a different level of testing. You want to identify what type of dementia it might be and confirm that, and that could mean that, that general physician takes that step or maybe the individual's referred to a neurologist or a psychologist for that secondary step to make sure we have the right diagnosis.
Michelle Graves: Which is like a brain scan because you probably are able to see some of that decline by scan?
Mike Miller: Well, you can do a PET scan. That's a new development over the last 15, 20 years that the Alzheimer's Association helped put into place. So the brain scan, the PET scan is non-invasive, it can show a lack of activity in the brain because of the after p and the lack of neurons moving. That would confirm some neurological issues in that brain. Doesn't always have to be a PET scan, those are pretty expensive right now and insurance doesn't cover that all the time, so there's for further levels of testing that are non-invasive that could be done from the doctor's office.
Michelle Graves: Because the brain does look like it's atrophied.
Mike Miller: Yes.
Michelle Graves: Okay. So that ... Yeah, that's what I thought. That's really interesting. So the testing is a lot similar to what they test for when you have a concussion it sounds like. How is concussion related to Alzheimer's?
Mike Miller: Well, as you asked that question, traumatic brain injury can be a cause of Alzheimer's, so wear a helmet when you're out riding that bike. You might be worried about your appearance. Well, too bad. Look crazy, but have a healthy brain. If you fall off that bike or the skateboard-
Michelle Graves: I always told my kids that. Your bones will heal, your bruises will heal, but your brain will not.
Mike Miller: Yeah. You get one brain, now let's keep it healthy. So the helmet is really important. So concussion, car wrecks, accidents can really cause some damage to your brain, which you don't want to have happen.
Jeff Harding: You're listening to the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life, and we're visiting with Mike Miller, who is the regional manager for the Utah Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. We're discussing Alzheimer's, as you said. Before you mentioned a few of the things that can decrease the chances, what are some more things will decrease the chance of getting Alzheimer's?
Mike Miller: All right, I've got great news for folks. Remember the number 120.
Jeff Harding: Okay, 120 I'll remember that.
Mike Miller: That's not how many miles to run.
Jeff Harding: Don't ask me in five minutes [crosstalk 00:14:09].
Michelle Graves: You can ask me at the end of the show, I was going to say that.
Mike Miller: Oh, my goodness. All right, so 120-
Michelle Graves: Test.
Mike Miller: That's the threshold number for blood pressure, and we just last summer had this study that showed us the results that that level, keeping your blood pressure below that number decreases your chance of getting Alzheimer's. What do you do to lower your blood pressure? I'm not going to say that medicine is the best way to attack that. I think lifestyle issues that you hear constantly from your doctor about certain things, and what does that include? Wellness and exercise, less sodium in your diet, cutting back on caffeine. Rats! No more coffee in the morning. No more. Just cut back, one cup instead of four. Okay?
Jeff Harding: Yeah.
Mike Miller: Manage your stress, lose some weight and quit smoking. Those are coming from the Mayo Clinic and some other sources. We hear those all the time. The trick is let's implement what we know, so we get a better result as we live our life. We want to be active, walking, having fun with our grandkids as we grow older, let's invest some things in our body right now so we're able to do that in the future.
Jeff Harding: Well, great. Are there anything ... Is there anything, any new news that's coming out about that cognitive impairment?
Mike Miller: There is. Interesting report. We do an annual report and just last week the association announced an interesting phenomena. If you're over 65, you know you have a wellness visit, part of your program, no cost, to go in and see your doctor. Part of that can be a cognitive assessment, no charge for that, but here's the dynamic, the doctor expects the patient to ask for this cognitive assessment because you've come in for some reason, your knee hurts, your back hurts, you've got a rash or something. They're expecting you to ask for cognitive assessment, but guess what? The patient is also thinking, the doctor's going to say, "Hey Mary, would you like your cognitive assessment? Let's get that done." So both groups think the other one will ask and consequently nobody does. So that baseline test is not done and nobody is getting that assessment. Not nobody, not as many people as could and should are having that assessment, so very interesting results to look at.
Jeff Harding: Now, it's interesting because most of us have health insurance that covers an annual exam.
Mike Miller: Sure.
Jeff Harding: But I have found that my annual exam is only as intense as I make it. The doctor is more than happy to just say, "Okay, your blood pressure's okay, whatever, go away, bye." So I have to ask, I have to say, "Okay, I have this, [inaudible 00:16:49]," and then he'll address those issues for me.
Mike Miller: Totally.
Jeff Harding: He or she, but my case it's a he, will address those issues for you. So it's the same thing with your cognitive wellness, you need to say, "I want to have a cognitive exam," especially if you're getting in that range where it's probably more critical.
Mike Miller: You bet, and the study also found that when patients ask that study, more than often, almost 99, 100% of the time they said, "Yeah, let's do that cognitive assessment." So it's an awareness issue and something you need to be an advocate for, which is your own health as you work with your healthcare providers.
Jeff Harding: Well, and that's true. Michelle, I'm sure you're aware that you have to be an advocate for your own health.
Michelle Graves: Yes, definitely, and that's interesting. I'd like to see that more across the board. Like even for kids physicals, why aren't we addressing the mental health status as we are the physical health status? How do we change that? That's-
Mike Miller: Grassroots.
Michelle Graves: It sounds like it's really important in Alzheimer's.
Mike Miller: Oh, it is. Part of our new theme is lifestyle issues and that includes taking better care of yourself, but also being your own best advocate. Remember to ask for that cognitive assessment when you go in for your annual checkup and also remember to go in for the annual checkup. All those things come into play.
Jeff Harding: Well, and then as you were saying with your children, when you're in with your children, make sure that ... I found that, as I'm thinking about my annual checkup, I started talking about this, this, this, I think about it, but if I don't write it down-
Mike Miller: Yes.
Jeff Harding: If I don't make an actual list, I'll cover about half of them when I get in there, and I'll forget the other half, and so then I have to wait another year because I can't afford to go to the doctor otherwise, except by high deductible.
Mike Miller: There you go.
Jeff Harding: So make a list, don't be afraid to write a list down.
Mike Miller: That list is good because we might feel intimidated, or we get distracted, or the doctor comes and goes out of the office. If you have that list of all things, check them off. Bring the pencil in, bring the three by five card and with your list.
Jeff Harding: But don't [inaudible 00:18:40] to handle this to the healthcare providers they hear, these are the things I'm concerned about.
Mike Miller: And they'll make that note and then the doctor will talk to you about them.
Jeff Harding: But make a copy for yourself too.
Mike Miller: Yes, that's right, so it's even playing field in there.
Michelle Graves: Well, tell us a little bit about the work that the Alzheimer's Association does, just so we have an overview because I know you're a great resource to go online and read about and find out information, but what else do you do in your association?
Mike Miller: Just back to that resource of online, everything from videos, to printed material and resources are there for people 24/7. We also have a 24/7 helpline. This is a national resource and what is great about that nurses level social workers are there and folks can call that number anytime for a very mundane question, or health care professional can call with something very specific. Here's the number, write it down. Don't forget (800) 272-3900, we can help you with 200 different languages, so don't let anything keep you from making a call to that.
Mike Miller: Here at our office here in St. George, we conduct support groups for caregivers and they're the unsung hero here, carrying that burden of caring for a loved one, and often they need help. They need resources, they need ideas on how to work through this life draining process. They can be in depression. They can be in very in negative physical shape because of this effort of caring for the loved one and we want to help them. So we do that through the support groups and conversation.
Jeff Harding: I think that's a very important thing to remember that, if you are a caregiver you have to take care of yourself first, you're not going to have the energy to take care of the person you're taking care of. So you have to take care of yourself. I've seen many people whose lives have declined because they've devoted their whole life to giving care, which is important, but they've neglected themselves in their care process, so that's very important to remember.
Michelle Graves: But it's also really great to know that if you're the caregiver, that you're not alone in what you're going through.
Jeff Harding: Oh, sure.
Michelle Graves: And these support groups are really great for that, just to find out how your friend's mother is doing and this and that, you can learn a lot just from being a part of a support group. I really like that aspect and that resource.
Mike Miller: We're still breaking through the barrier of the disease being a bit of a stigma, not a lot of knowledge in the ground forces of people that are the caregivers and even the myths that are still carrying over from 15, 20, 30 years ago. So the caregiver element is really crucial. It takes on average three caregivers unpaid, to help one person with the disease.
Jeff Harding: Oh yeah.
Mike Miller: That's the number, it's three to one.
Jeff Harding: I can see that.
Mike Miller: That's big, so we want to support the caregivers. The other educational programs are what we'd like to do also, and if you're hearing here in this show, I'd love to come to your community, your church group, your fraternity or service club to talk about the disease, how it could impact your own family, how you can be an advocate and a resource in your community group. We go out and offer that kind of education, and then we also promote awareness and research.
Mike Miller: Research is big, as we spoke a little bit earlier, the disease was discovered back in 1905. Here we are more than 100 later, haven't quite pinpointed the way to remove those plaques and tangles that are in the brain causing those neurological impulses not to be able to move. That's a big issue, we're still working on that, and we have a case for research monies, for projects here in Utah and even across the country through the association and then through National Institute of Health where we've just crossed this major milestone of 2,000,000,000 dollars available for research, and it costs a lot for research.
Jeff Harding: You have a fundraiser that you do every year?
Mike Miller: Yes, we do.
Jeff Harding: What is that?
Mike Miller: It's the walk to end Alzheimer's on September 14th.
Jeff Harding: Is that national or is that just for St. George?
Mike Miller: That's our St. George Walk. We have eight walks here in Utah. It's a national initiative with 600 walks throughout the US.
Michelle Graves: Does it all ... Do they all take place in September?
Mike Miller: Nope, they start in August. We've seen them in September and also into November. Depending on where you are, that kind of dictates when your walk is. We're going to be at Dixie state. We'll have 500 or more people out. We'll have grandpa and grandma there, kids in strollers, everybody in between. There'll be people there with Alzheimer's, others will be walking in memory of their loved ones. We make it an event to memorialize and honor, support, educate, and just bring the whole disease to a higher level of awareness so that we can do the right things for our loved ones.
Jeff Harding: So wherever you are, you can find an Alzheimer's Association walk that you can help fund. You can help to help raise funds for them, right?
Mike Miller: That's right.
Michelle Graves: We need to raise funds. They've got to find a cure for this.
Jeff Harding: Yeah, that's right.
Michelle Graves: A really big issue.
Jeff Harding: So we have about a minute or so left Mike.
Mike Miller: Okay.
Jeff Harding: Why don't you tell us what your website is and then just what's your last statement about ... Just give us one last ... By the way, 120, I remember that.