ALZHEIMER’S ADVOCACY AND PREVENTION

WHY I CARE SO MUCH ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S

Like so many, Alzheimer's has left an indelible mark on my life. It claimed my mother's vitality in her 60s, progressing to cause her death over 13 years later in her 70s. This painful journey mirrors my grandmother's dementia, leading to her demise at 62.

In addition to this family history, I carry one copy of the ApoE4 gene, which more than doubles my risk of late-onset Alzheimer’s and affects about 25% of people. Those with two copies, like actor Chris Hemsworth, face an even higher risk, 8- to 12-fold.

Witnessing my mom's decline fueled my fear of Alzheimer's, but I replaced fear with a positive mindset by focusing on what’s within my control. I developed an insatiable obsession to learn everything about Alzheimer’s and how to prevent it.

My research skills came in handy as I sifted through dense articles and books, attended conferences and workshops, and stumbled across one of many encouraging findings: 40% of global Alzheimer’s and other dementia cases can be prevented or at least delayed by adopting brain healthy behaviors.

I incorporated brain healthy habits into my own lifestyle and continue evolving my risk reduction regimen as I learn more from emerging research. I’ve been doing this for 18 years.

What steps can you take within your control to live a longer, healthier, more joyful life?
My hope for you is that this information will inspire you to conquer your fears head on, whether they are related to health or something else.

- Kris

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S

Dementia affects over 55 million people worldwide, a number projected to reach 131 million by 2050. Alzheimer's is the most common type of dementia. Since only 40-65% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s have an ApoE4 gene, anyone with a brain is at risk for getting Alzheimer’s.

In fact, researchers now believe that Alzheimer’s starts to develop in the brain decades before clinical symptoms of memory loss and cognitive decline are noticeable.

Despite billions spent on research, Alzheimer's drugs only provide temporary relief, slowing cognitive decline but failing to halt brain cell damage. Presently, dementia ranks as the seventh leading cause of death globally. Read on. There IS hope.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S

Here’s some hope. Encouraging news from leading dementia experts reveals that adopting brain healthy lifestyle behaviors can prevent or delay 40% of global dementia cases, including Alzheimer’s. Your daily choices—what you eat, how much you move, the air you breathe, social interactions, and learning—can have a direct impact on whether you end up with Alzheimer’s or the onset age of symptoms.

Know the 12 modifiable risk factors that account for about 40% of global dementia cases: smoking, less education, physical inactivity, depression, obesity, hypertension, hearing impairment, diabetes, low social contact, traumatic brain injury, excessive alcohol consumption, and air pollution. Some research suggests additional related risk factors such as poor oral health.

Learn what YOU can do to protect and improve your Brain Health and which lifestyle habits you can start incorporating today.

As for some personal examples:

I aim to eat 30 different veggies and fruits per week, fatty fish 2-4 times a week, and daily staples like leafy greens, berries, turmeric (with pepper), and green tea
I’m learning Spanish and how to play my favorite songs on a low-cost keyboard (Thank you, YouTube!)
Sleep has become a priority (7-8 hours/night)
My exercise regimen: High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT), weight training, and competitive tennis and pickleball for multiple benefits—exercise, social engagement, and cognitive training. (Pickleball requires cognitive effort just to keep score!)
Choose healthy lifestyle behaviors YOU enjoy and can stick with, and do your research on what makes sense for you.

HOW TO HELP A FAMILY MEMBER WITH ALZHEIMER’S

Know the 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. If a loved one exhibits these signs, urge them to consult their doctor promptly. Early diagnosis opens doors to various treatment options, potential participation in clinical trials, and crucial time for life planning decisions.

Delve into Caregiving Strategies and Resources to enhance your support for your loved one and yourself in this challenging period.

The first priority starts with YOU. Take steps to learn more and adopt brain healthy lifestyle habits to prevent or defer Alzheimer’s.

Rally your friends and family to embrace brain healthy habits. The more these habits become the norm in our environment and culture, the easier it is to make healthy choices.

Advocate for insurance covering preventive care, especially neurological assessments for those with Alzheimer’s genes or a family history—populations most susceptible to the disease.

Advocate for more dollars towards prevention research. While treatments are crucial, simultaneous investment in prevention research is essential. Let's act now to address the Alzheimer’s challenges comprehensively.

My Mom’s Story

My mom, Judy, is my inspiration for becoming an advocate for Alzheimer’s and its prevention. 

My goal in walking you through my mom’s Alzheimer’s story and these photos is to create awareness about the progression and stages of Alzheimer’s so that you are prepared and can get support if you or a loved one are faced with this situation.

I hope this story and the resources on this page inspire you.

- Kris

LIFE BEFORE ALZHEIMER’S

My Mom was athletic, adventurous, and loved to travel. She grew up in central Illinois, graduated from Illinois State University, and became a teacher. She loved my dad, our family, teaching, and giving advice, which runs in our family.

Mom as a kid with her mother (my grandmother), Francis. Little did they know then that they would both get dementia, likely Alzheimer’s, in their 60’s.
Mom loved her cat eye glasses and was often the life of the party.
Mom and Dad married in 1963 and were married for 56 years until my mom passed from Alzheimer’s.
My parents had 3 kids. I was the youngest. My siblings and I are still very close.
Visiting Egypt was on Mom’s bucket list, so I took her with me on a business trip in ‘97. We rode camels near the pyramids and learned a lot together. I cherish these memories.
My mom was instrumental in helping us when our first son was born.

LIFE WITH EARLY-STAGE ALZHEIMER’S

Mom showed signs in her early 60’s before getting a diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s at age 65. She started misplacing things, telling repetitive stories, and forgetting words on a more regular basis. She struggled to follow her favorite recipes or balance her checkbook because she couldn’t do simple math. We convinced her to stop driving after she got lost driving to her local pharmacy and left the car running with no one in it. Mom loved being with our family.

Mom was also helpful when our second son arrived. Our older son had (undiagnosed) autism and was confused. Mom was in denial of her Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and didn’t yet have an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
This is the last photo I have of Mom with our boys, soon after her diagnosis with Alzheimer’s and older son’s diagnosis with autism. Now adults, our boys only remember her with late-stage Alzheimer’s living in memory care.
My wonderful dad, sister, brother, and their families live near my hometown in Texas, while I now live near Chicago. They kept my mom very engaged and involved. Mom loved us all deeply.

LIFE WITH MIDDLE-STAGE ALZHEIMER’S

Even with middle-stage Alzheimer’s, Mom lived an active life with support. Most of these photos are from a 2-week European river cruise trip celebrating my parents’ 50th anniversary when she had middle-stage Alzheimer’s. We almost canceled this trip due to her progressing Alzheimer’s. She didn’t know where we were most days, couldn’t use a knife or spoon, and came close to getting lost several times. My sister and I went on this trip too to help my parents. Boy did she have a great time despite these challenges!

This is one of my favorite photos of my parents from this trip and stage of her life. She’s so happy here even with moderate Alzheimer’s.
She didn’t know where we were, but she LOVED to dance and had a blast!
Mom (with my dad and sis) loved listening to the European tour guides but didn’t understand what they were talking about. She relished being included.

LIFE WITH LATE-STAGE ALZHEIMER’S

Late-stage gets really difficult. Alzheimer's aged Mom prematurely. She lived in memory care for 4 years during this stage. When she first moved into memory care, she could have been mistaken as one of their employees given her exemplary social skills. Over those 4 years, she lost her ability to think, walk, talk, and eat on her own. I’m not including the more unflattering photos of her in this stage when we barely recognized her. She passed at age 78 while living in memory care.

Dad reluctantly moved Mom into a memory clinic when she didn’t recognize him, couldn’t dress herself, and was having daily bathroom accidents. He visited her almost daily for 4 years.
Mom didn’t know who I was. Notice her response to my kiss compared to my sister's (next photo). My sister lived near her memory clinic in Texas, visiting frequently. I visited less frequently from Chicago.
Mom smiled from my sister's kiss, in contrast to my attempt (earlier photo). Despite not recognizing my sister, Mom felt a sense of familiarity due to her frequent visits.
I invite you to join me in this advocacy journey. Together, let's combat Alzheimer's, raise awareness, inspire preventative actions, and advocate for change in our communities.