"I share a personal connection with dementia having lost my grandmother to the condition on 11 September 2012. An attractive and intelligent woman with a heart of gold, I witnessed her cognitive function gradually deteriorate over the eight year period following her diagnosis, with debilitating accompanying changes to her behaviour, mood and capacity to take care of herself. Her decline in 2012 was particularly rapid and after a period in hospital due to various health complaints, the move from her home of over 60 years to a high care dementia care facility, although necessary, was incredibly distressing for her, my grandfather and all the extended family. She passed away about four months after being admitted, lingering in a vegetative state for four days in palliative care before finally succumbing to the ravages of her illness. As I am sure you can appreciate, the whole situation was truly awful.
"Dementia is a condition that runs in my family - it killed my mother's mother, and my grandmother's mother. I've seen its devastating effects first hand and also understand the pressure it places on families. I don't want the same debilitating illness to hurt me and the people I love down the track if I can help it. Through my work at Baptist Community Services I've also had the privilege of providing PR and events support to promote Stronger Carers. This is a program to support family carers of people living with dementia in Sydney, and as part of that task my understanding of the social significance of dementia has increased.
"Having looked at the research around dementia prevention it was uplifting to see that the general consensus among researchers is that genetic makeup contributes to brain health at a rate of only 30%, which means that up to 70% of our brain health in late life is determined by our lifestyle. Accordingly, I am very keen to further adopt and promote a lifestyle that encourages healthy brain ageing.
I think it is also the socially responsible thing to do, considering our ageing population, to spread the word to younger people about the benefits of adopting healthy lifestyle choices early on in life. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. And as there is currently no cure for dementia, I think it is vital we do what we can now to give ourselves the best chance of avoiding it in the future. Raising money for CHeBA's research to find out what helps the brain age successfully, and conversely, what doesn't, is a big part of informing that process and something I'm really motivated to assist CHeBA with."
What does "Healthy Brains. Positive Ageing" mean to me?
"For me, "Healthy Brains. Positive Ageing" means deciding to make some smart and infinitely doable lifestyle choices now during my 20s and 30s which will help me to develop life-long healthy habits that will translate into health dividends for my brain in later life, reducing my risk of developing dementia. I think everyone hopes to live a long and healthy life, and with advances in modern-day medicine and improvements in our standard of living, we are certainly delivering on the length side of the equation. But longevity without quality is a poor compromise. I want to be physically and mentally fit as I age, and the two aren't mutually exclusive. The brain, just like the heart, is part of the body, and we have to look after it if we want to enjoy the positive ageing outcomes CHeBA is researching towards. I also try and promote my brain's overall 'fitness' by adopting a healthy diet, engaging in mentally stimulating activities, getting quality sleep and ensuring I get enough relaxation time."
Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Business (Public Relations) with Distinction and is currently studying towards her Master of Arts (Journalism) along with completion of a certificate course in voice training for radio and television. At the moment she works full-time for Baptist Community Services - NSW & ACT as their Communications and Events Co-ordinator. With a background in fashion modelling Stephanie has always maintained a healthy approach to diet and fitness. Between aiming to cover a marathon distance (42km) over each week via walking, jogging or running daily, maximising mental benefits during her cardio sessions by listening to non-fiction audio books instead of music and practicing yoga regularly, Stephanie is a prime example of someone championing healthy brain ageing from a young age. She's also a licenced skydiver and eats a balanced diet with a focus on fruit and vegetables, lean protein, oily fish, wholegrains and low-fat dairy while avoiding processed, sugary foods. CHeBA is absolutely thrilled to welcome Stephanie as a CHeBA Champion!
The CHeBA Champions are Fitness Ambassadors for the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing. These fitness professionals and enthusiasts in their 20s and 30s are championing healthy brain ageing through healthy lifestyles from a young age.