My 47th birthday was yesterday. Man, how did I get to be that old already? I certainly don’t feel it. My perceptual age of myself just graduated recently to somewhere in my thirties. About time, huh? I like to think I don’t look it either. At the airport the other day, the guy at the security checkpoint could not believe the date on my license. OK, he might have been flirting a little, but, hey, I’ll take it.
My paternal grandmother, we called her Mawmaw, (this is the South) was an identical twin. She quit school after the third grade and stayed home with her mother learning all the domestic talents. Boy, she could make some yummy biscuits from scratch. They would melt in your mouth. Her coconut cakes were legendary. She made them from fresh, whole coconuts, and usually 4 layers high. Mmmmmm!
Except for a few very brief stints, she never really worked or drove. She preferred to stay home and watch her soaps and interact with a small, comfortable circle of friends and family. She lived her life within a short distance from where she was born.
Her sister, on the other hand, finished high school and never worked for money, but did volunteer work throughout her life. She drove a car. She was socially outgoing, active at church and in clubs, and lived in many states.
Both developed Alzheimer’s. My Mawmaw started showing signs of it in her late 50’s. She died at 77 after being in an assisted living facility for 14 years. Her sister developed Alzheimer’s in her late 70’s. She died a few years later at the age of 80.
This example, of course, is not scientific proof, but I do draw some pretty strong conclusions from it. I believe, the life my Mawmaw led contributed to her developing Alzheimer’s much earlier. Because her brain did not develop physically as much over her somewhat sheltered life, it was much more devastating earlier when Alzheimer’s started pruning it away. She had no extra.
Because I physically resemble my Mawmaw, I used to be very scared of developing Alzheimer’s. Not so much anymore. While having had a brain injury does increase my risk, I feel like I have already been there and back.
Many studies have confirmed that regular cardiovascular exercise and a diet high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and antioxidants has clear-cut, positive benefits in staving off the onset of the disease. There is also much evidence to suggest that keeping the brain stimulated, challenged, and alert, maintaining an active social life, and staying emotionally healthy lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Recent studies have even shown that our brains grow in some abilities as we age. There is an overall net gain in middle age with wisdom, cognitive depth, and reasoning power increasing. Yipee! (More on that later.)
I know that, without a doubt, my future is going to be fabulous. I have learned the tools to make it so no matter what happens around me. I am in the best shape mentally, emotionally and probably even physically than I have ever been. I truly am better than ever and ready for the second act