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Diversifying healthy aging

Age is the biggest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's affects about 2/3 of women and 1/3 of men.
September 17, 2019

New ASU center for healthy aging partners with Banner Alzheimer's Institute to host conference for Hispanic community

Roughly 5.8 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, and by 2050, that number is expected to increase to roughly 14 million. Over that time, the population with the largest projected increase in instances of the disease are Hispanic Americans, underscoring the need to address taboos and misconceptions and spread knowledge and resources within that community.

Last week, the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Arizona State University’s recently established Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging partnered to host the first-ever Hispanics and Alzheimer’s Disease Conference at the Banner Estrella Medical Center in Phoenix.

headshot of ASU Professor

David Coon

“While the Center for Innovation in Healthy and Resilient Aging is not focused solely on Alzheimer’s disease, it is dedicated to improving the quality of life of older adults through education, prevention, care and research,” said David Coon, director of the center, which is housed in ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “We’re happy and excited to partner with Banner to reach out to the Hispanic community, who have been underserved in this area.”

Aside from increasing awareness, the other main goal of the conference was to educate the community about the importance of participating in clinical trials.

“At Banner, we have noticed there is a dire need to diversify our clinical trials,” said Daniel Viramontes Apodaca, clinical research coordinator with the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. “So this initiative is part of our year of diversity, where we’re putting an emphasis on diversity in Alzheimer’s awareness.”

At the conference, Alzheimer's experts from Banner Health, ASU and the greater Phoenix area led simultaneous panels and discussions in both Spanish and English for a crowd of about 120 community members, many of whom were caregivers themselves.

Edward Quinones, a 72-year-old Vietnam veteran, attended the conference Friday at the behest of his daughter, in hopes of learning more about caregiving resources and clinical trials. Quinones’ wife has been diagnosed with dementia, and he is in the process of being diagnosed himself.

“I don’t think there’s enough talk about it (in the Hispanic community),” Quinones said. “My understanding was always that it was just a part of getting older, just a part of life.”

That was one of many misconceptions addressed in a panel discussion titled “Fact or Fiction: The Truth about Alzheimer’s Disease,” led in Spanish by Claudia Fernandez of Hospice of the Valley and in English by Heather Mulder, outreach program senior manager at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute.

Other myths busted by the panel:

  • Forgetting what you ate for lunch is a normal part of aging: This is false because normal aging results in lapses in long-term memory while Alzheimer’s damages the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory.
  • Men are affected more by Alzheimer’s: This is false because roughly two-thirds of women are affected by the disease while only about one-third of men are. The assumption used to be that this was because women lived longer, but recent findings indicate it may have something to do with how hormonal changes women experience during menopause affect their brains.
  • Supplements help boost memory: This is false because supplements are not regulated by the FDA in the same way pharmaceutical drugs are, so there is no hard research to prove they boost memory. One of the best ways to boost memory is through mental exercise, such as games and hobbies, but the best mental exercise is to learn something new.

The discussion also covered the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s, risk factors, lifestyle factors and hope for the future.

Risk factors are something people have no control over, such as genetics and age, with age being the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. At the age of 65, chances of developing the disease are about 1 in 8. Those chances double every five years, reaching nearly 50-50 by the age of 85. By the age of 95, however, the risk begins to drop off.

Lifestyle factors are something we do have control over, such as diet and health. Hispanics have a much higher rate — about two times higher — of developing Alzheimer’s than other populations because of higher incidences of diseases that affect the heart among the community. The good news is that following a healthy lifestyle plan to avoid such diseases drops the risk for Alzheimer’s considerably.

While about 80% of clinical trials are delayed or fail because of a lack of participants, much of the hope for the future lies in what doctors and scientists have been able to discover through that kind of research, highlighting the great need in that area.

“Your life does not end because you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s,” said Berta Carbajal, a research specialist at the Edson College and co-founder of the Promotores HOPE (Helping Other Promotores Excel) Network who led a discussion about caregiver concerns. “But culturally, it’s like we shut off, we go into denial. That’s why we want to be able to open up these doors of communication and talk about those fears and educate people about the resources and research opportunities available to them.”

Top photo: Attendees at the Banner Alzheimer's Insititute Hispanics and Alzheimer’s Disease Conference on Friday hold up paddles to indicate whether they think a statement about Alzheimer's disease is fact or fiction. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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Sun Devil football head coach inspires student journalists with pep talk

September 17, 2019

Cronkite School kicks off Must See Mondays speaker series with ‘Inside the Huddle with Herm Edwards'

Arizona State University football Head Coach Herm Edwards is as comfortable in front of a microphone as he is on the gridiron. There are correlations between the two, he said.

“The thing you have to know as a coach or as a journalist is that you can’t take on someone else’s personality,” Edwards said. “At the end, you’re a storyteller. How do you get the viewer to buy into what you’re saying? There are five other channels who are saying the same thing as you, so why are they watching you? You have to tell people why. They see it, but you have to explain why. That’s knowledge.”

His talk, “Inside the Huddle with Herm Edwards,” kicked off the fall 2019 Must See Mondays speaker series at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

The December 2017 hire, also a Cronkite professor of practice and former ESPN analyst, was an inspired choice for the series, said discussion moderator Paola Boivin, digital director for Cronkite News — Phoenix Sports.

“Our students can learn so much from someone who has seen journalism through a unique collection of prisms. He has been grilled by journalists in one of the toughest media markets as head coach of the New York Jets,” said Boivin, an award-winning journalist with the Arizona Republic who serves on the College Football Playoff selection committee. “He has offered thoughtful commentary as an analyst for ESPN, and has experienced the high physical and mental demands of a professional athlete. I can’t wait to listen.”

And neither could others.

Edwards’ appearance packed the Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum with scores of journalism students, faculty, staff and community members, who loudly cheered the coach’s arrival two days after an away victory over the 18th-ranked Michigan State University Spartans. The surprise win gave the Sun Devils a recent Top 25 national ranking.

Students attending a speaker series.

More than a hundred students packed The Cronkite School's First Amendment Forum to listen to Sun Devil football Head Coach Herm Edwards on Monday. Edwards, who is also a Cronkite professor of practice, kicked off the Must See Mondays speaker series. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The wide-ranging interview covered Edwards’ 10-year career as a National Football League player, his tenure as an NFL scout and assistant coach, head coaching stints with the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, and his post-NFL career as an ESPN analyst. He said his success is something Cronkite students could apply to their journalism careers.

“The thing that I learned a long time ago is that I didn’t want to be liked. I really didn’t want to be liked. … I wanted to be respected,” Edwards said. “When you’re liked, you’re willing to change who you are. We can’t do that. When you compromise your values, to me, you’re selling out. You don’t do that. You’ve got to stand for something.”

Edwards encouraged students to be bold in their personal and professional lives and take chances, the same as he does with his players, who aren’t afraid to discuss topics other than football.

“I tell people all the time, ‘Don’t allow people to call you an athlete. You’re a father, a husband,'” Edwards said. “'Being an athlete is your occupation. That’s what you do for a living. You’re not defined by being an athlete. Don’t let people put you in that box.’”

Edwards said his background as a former journalist is why he has made the football program accessible to the media, and views it as a symbiotic relationship.

“They (journalists) are the voice of your program, whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent," Edwards said. "You’re not going to agree with what other people write. We owe the journalists the ability to do their jobs. Our job is coaching the players.”

The 65-year-old coach said there are many correlations between football and journalism in that both professions require focus, intensity and a little anxiety.

“If you have no anxiety in your belly before that red light goes on, I’m going to tell you right now, you’re in trouble,” Edwards said. “Don’t get comfortable. Anxiety gives you a clear path of thinking.”

That said, Edwards warned that stress is more prevalent in young people today than ever before and they need to find a time and place on a daily basis to recharge their batteries, turn off all of their electronics and visually think about what they want to do in their life. It’s why Edwards shows up most days to the office at 4 a.m.

“It’s done purposely because that’s when I do all of my thinking,” Edwards said. “I get up early because it’s very quiet and no one’s bothering you. You have to have these quiet moments. You have to figure out what are your priorities … What’s important to you?”

Edwards said time marches swiftly and that when he was in college, he could never envision himself as a senior citizen.

“It (time) goes by fast and I used to hear that all the time … it goes by fast,” Edwards said. “Embrace it. Don’t question yourself. I learned this a long time ago — you have to be willing to bet on yourself, whatever you do in life. It’s going to be hard work. You fall down, you get up, but you always bet on yourself. I’ve always done that. I just bet on me.”

Edwards described himself as “a bit militant” when he was in college, someone who constantly questioned and challenged authority.

“I was a person who wanted to know why, and I think when you stop asking why, you stop seeking knowledge,” Edwards said. “You don’t quit when you’re tired, you quit when the work is done … You have to have that resolve in you.”

Top photo: Sun Devil football Head Coach Herm Edwards has a conversation with Cronkite News' Paola Boivin, in front of a packed First Amendment Forum room downtown, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. The talk, titled "Inside the Huddle with Herm Edwards," was part of the Must See Mondays series. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU News