Shannon Ingram's Place

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Location: So CA

Musings of a woman who left her corporate career to become a caregiver for elderly parents, wrote a book and found her way back to corporate - with love, instead of fear, leading the way.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Football - My Alzheimer's Prevention Program


I'm a huge fan of Frank LaFerla, Ph.D., Director of UCI MIND - the UCI Institute for Memory Impairments and Neurological Disorders. Dr. LaFerla (pictured here) is a Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior in the School of Biological Sciences at my alma mater, UC Irvine. I have had the distinct pleasure of hearing him speak four times in the past year and his message always fascinates me to the point of incredulity. That's probably because after years of working in travel, hospitality, technology and entertainment marketing, I now find myself in health care marketing, specifically in the field of memory care. Dr. LaFerla is world-renowned as the brilliant guy with the Alzheimer's mice (find out more by visiting www.mind.uci.edu). He's kind of the "American Idol" for brain research!

This may not trigger thrills and chills in you right now, but if you had the chance to hear Dr. LaFerla speak, I guarantee you'd be blown away the same way I have been! His research indicates that neural stem cells (NOT to be confused with those controversial embryonic stem cells) may rescue memory in Advanced Alzheimer's. He also says that if you want to keep your brain healthy as you age, you need to be out there learning something totally new
all the time. He suggests a foreign language, how to play a musical instrument, Sudoku, a tough gourmet cooking class. On that note, Dr. LaFerla is an excellent Italian chef, whose personally cooked dinners fetch super-high bids at silent auctions benefitting UCI MIND (yes, I'm one of the many who has been outbid for that prize).

After hearing Dr. LaFerla speak at Saddleback Church recently, I decided to learn Spanish. Unfortunately, I don't have time to do that right now, so I started thinking about other stuff I could learn that would take me outside the marketing/cooking/writing "box" that is my comfort zone. Today, on a typical fall Sunday at my home, it hit me. I'm already doing it. I'm
learning about football!

As a teenager, I resented football taking over our family's living room every Saturday and Sunday as my brother sat glued to our one TV. I purposely chose a college that did NOT have a football team, although I admit to attending a few Stanford and UCLA games with boyfriends. I had no idea what was happening on the field except when a player somehow scored a touchdown and everyone screamed. Mostly I liked half time.

My first husband didn't care about football, either. He liked boating. We spent our weekends at sea. And when we stayed ashore, we went to movies or rode his motorcycle on Saturday and Sunday. With no children of my own, I never experienced football or cheer-leading practice, or high school Friday night lights.

This life without football was just fine with me until my first husband passed away in 1995 and four years later, I married a rabid football fan. We're talking Broncos tailgate parties every home game, college games on TV all day Saturday, "sacred" chili nights every Monday from September to January. I never really knew what he was talking about when he would call plays at our favorite sports bar in Englewood, CO. I was more interested in playing trivia games. I humored him by going to Bronco games, freezing my you-know-what off, and enthusiastically cheering while not really understanding why.

All that has changed in the past few years. We moved from Denver to California and I found myself missing the Broncos. It was apparent we'd be watching NFL games every Sunday and college games on Saturday. Our niece, Lindsey, enrolled in and graduated from University of Washington, rendering me a Dawgs fan, initially because she and her boyfriend were in the Husky marching band. In the spirit of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em," I decided to try and learn about the game of football. I wanted to learn more about the game than touchdowns and four quarters.

I began by watching "The NFL Today" on CBS after my favorite "Sunday Morning" show. I liked the panel that includes retired Bronco Shannon Sharpe. Then I started reading about NFL coaches, players and team owners. And I went online to learn about the college teams and coaches. I watched all the football movies again -
Rudy, Jerry McGuire, Remember the Titans, Brian's Song, Invincible, We Are Marshall - and I started watching games and asking my husband, who is my football coach, to help me understand the plays, the penalties, the jargon, why time-outs are called, and more. This past July, for the first time, I found myself looking forward to football season just as much as Halloween.

I cleaned house this morning with "The NFL Today" playing on TV's in every room. I chose to watch the Green Bay/Washington game because I like Redskins coach Mike Shanahan who used to coach our Broncos. Now, with a clean house, I am enjoying the Raiders/Chargers game. I root for the Chargers, which is controversial in this home where we are serious Bronco fans. I didn't understand until a week ago that although Broncos have a big rivalry with the Raiders, we shouldn't root for the Chargers because they have a better chance of displacing the Broncos this year. I have finally figured out what "Holding" is. Today, I learned about what is the weak side and strong side of the field for a particular play!

In my quest to stave off Alzheimer's, I have a lot more football to learn this season. I'll sign up for that Spanish class after the Super Bowl next February. And tonight, in honor of Dr. LaFerla, I'm cooking Italian chicken for me and my coach.