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#ENDALZ: A Personal Call to Action

I’ve been thinking about this massive #ENDALZ movement- the hashtag, who uses it, what it means…

I taped it on my back in 2013 when I ran the Baltimore Marathon.  I thought I’d use the 26 miles to spread awareness and show my solidarity.  But what does #ENDALZ mean?

Be honest.  If you see the hashtag on Facebook or Instagram or use it on social media, are you thinking, “Yeah, Science Community.  Find a cure to end Alzheimer’s disease!”?

Or, “Come on politicians!  Invest our tax dollars in research to end this disease!”

Or, “Hey everyone!  Put on your purple and join us!”

Because when I stopped to think about it, that’s what the expression meant to me.

And I’m thinking that I’ve been dead wrong.

#ENDALZ is a call to action… but not for some research institute, or some governmental department, or some political figure.  It’s my action that is most urgently needed.

And yours.

I think it’s time to call for responsible use of the hashtag, if such a thing exists.  If you are going to use #ENDALZ, then it should be about more than spreading awareness.  It should be a pledge.

Because we are already directing tons of resources and BILLIONS of dollars to the scientific community to save us. Are we seriously waiting for NIH to come up with a vaccine?  Are we waiting for a magic drug to be developed that will stop a disease process born of lifestyle choices?  Don’t get me wrong- I desperately want something to alleviate the suffering of millions of people.  I really do.  So on the treatment/cure side of things, let’s keep researching!

But on the prevention side… we all need to take the #ENDALZ pledge.  If this next generation of aging mid-lifers could do their part to eradicate the risk factors, and reach down to the next generation and teach them what to do, we could substantially reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease without any further investment in unicorn drugs.

Every day I read research that outlines proven ways to lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.  Things like smoking cessation, managing hypertension and diabetes, physical exercise…

Ask yourself, are you doing your part to lower your risk?  Do you know the impact each of us could have on the prevalence and devastation of this disease if we did what the research has told us to do?

There are so many modifiable risk factors for AD.  There are so many ways to decrease your risk of developing it, even if you are genetically predisposed.

Here’s a transformational nugget of information for you:  The most common form of Alzheimer’s is NOT an old person’s disease. It’s a middle age person’s disease.  The age of Alzheimer’s onset is not 65, or 75, or 85… that’s just the age when the symptoms show up.  Typical Alzheimer’s pathology starts in midlife, or possibly younger if you’ve had brain trauma or carry one or two of the APOE alleles, and it’s a cumulative process that eventually presents as decreased cognitive performance.

If you are over the age of 45 and obese and/or sedentary and/or hypertensive and/or insulin resistant and/or menopausal and/or smoking and/or drinking excessive alcohol and/or stressed, the plaques and tangles have probably already started to form.  You don’t control those risk factors by medicating them (which can lead to other problems). You control them through lifestyle changes.

Nutrition, movement, sleep, stress management, smoking cessation… manageable changes.  And fancier strategies like intermittent fasting, and meditation, and epigenetics, and HIIT training… much of it doable and all of it significantly cheaper than pharmaceuticals and paid personal care.

I know that there are outliers- people who do everything right and still get the disease.  But if we’re talking about relative risk and controllable risk factors, then the health of many of our future brains is still within our control.

Adhering to every risk factor recommendation will not guarantee that you won’t develop Alzheimer’s, but it will most likely reduce your chances of developing it or delay the onset of symptoms.  And do it better and cheaper than medications.

#ENDALZ is not a call to action for someone else to act.  It’s a pledge to do our part.

Who wants to take the pledge?  #IPLEDGETOENDALZ

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