Geoff Hart jumps into his riding gear, preparing to head out for an afternoon ride. Exercise is a key element of the 60-year-old’s daily routine to stay as healthy as possible. “I try to do something every day,” the broadcast journalist shares. “Whether it’s weights, swimming, or going bike riding . . . I have to stay active.”
More than one million viewers have followed the sports-turned-morning-news-anchor’s story since he announced he was stepping down at WYFF 4 in the spring of 2021. For months, he’d been struggling to read common words in the teleprompter. Temporary time off in December grew to extensive testing in spring that revealed early-onset Alzheimer’s.
“I’m doing good,” he shares. “The thing people always ask is, ‘What’s next? What are you doing?’ I think part of that is just doing something all the time.” This past summer, “doing something” included pedaling from the Upstate to Charleston with the Ride to End ALZ, helping to raise $1.3 million.
Faith is his true north, with family rounding out the other points on his compass. Long before his diagnosis, Hart lived a pretty disciplined life. He now has a full medical team to guide his way, including a general practitioner, neurologist, and internist.
Dr. Mary Brittain Blankenship specializes in integrative medicine with Spruce MD and has been treating Hart since the initial diagnosis. “Geoff’s doing really well,” she says. “He’s staying active, which is a huge part of combating Alzheimer’s. He’s prioritizing other things in his life, which have been helpful, too.” Those other things include prioritizing sleep and digging deep into nutrition, with clean eating and beneficial vitamins and supplements.
Sadly, Hart is not alone in battling the degenerative brain disease. More than 55 million people live with Alzheimer’s or similar diseases. Blakenship says that as a whole, dementia has increased, and she feels like she’s seeing more early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s cases. “I do see that there’s a link between lifestyle and the development of both,” she explains. “There are those who have been genetically pre-disposed, or something triggers it from a lifestyle standpoint. It’s often not just one thing. It can be genetics combined with chronic sleep deprivation, poor diet, chronic stress, vitamin deficiencies, cholesterol or cardiovascular disease, or environmental factors.”
She stresses the importance of people getting baseline reads and lab optimizations in their 30s, and then modifying lifestyles accordingly. “As soon as we notice something, we’re catching it so late in the game, there’s not much we can do to reverse it,” she explains. “The earlier you can create a healthier lifestyle, you’re preventing it and seeking longevity that is free of dementia and debilitation.”
Ever the communicator, Hart readily engages in conversations about treatments and the journey he’s taking. “Everyone’s path is different,” he says. “We have people in our community. We’re finding more. I feel I want to try to be as best I can on this thing and to other people.” A headline he’s written across his entire life.
Dementia is not one specific disease. It’s a term to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities. Depending on the cause, some dementia symptoms are reversible.
Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia in older adults.
Types of dementia that worsen and aren’t reversible include Alzheimer’s, Lewy Body, vascular, and frontotemporal dementia.
Other disorders linked to dementia: Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
Risk Factors That Can’t Be Changed
Age, family history, Down syndrome
Risk Factors That Can Be Changed
Diet, exercise, alcohol intake, sleep, vitamins and nutrients, air pollution, depression, and cardiovascular risks.
Keep in Mind
Your memory often changes as you grow older. But memory loss that disrupts daily life is not a typical part of aging.