We recently sat down to talk with Ken Ansin, 56, who is new to the McCance Center.
This may seem obvious, but why is brain health important to you?
“I think it comes down to being able to live a fully productive life – for my wife and children, for my professional aspirations and, equally important, my philanthropy, including my volunteer role as a pilot for Patient AirLift Services (PALS) and Angel Flight. These are both very special organizations that arrange free flights for people who need urgent medical care, including children and people who’ve served in the military.”
I have a great opportunity to stay on track and do what I can to improve my brain care now.
McCance Clinic Patient
“Knowing that I can be called into service any time to help someone at their critical time of need makes me always want to be at my sharpest, and never lose the ability to make a difference for other people.”
What brought you to the McCance Clinic at Mass General?
As a Mass General primary care patient already, Mr. Ansin started his journey at the McCance Clinic with Zeina Chemali, MD, MPH, earlier this year. “My wife initially made the suggestion. She wasn’t particularly concerned about any specific memory issues, but coming from a family where Alzheimer’s had emerged, she was generally more aware of how serious memory deficits can be, and urged me to get ahead of my brain health now.”
“Together, my primary care doctor, my wife and I agreed that at just 56, I have a great opportunity to stay on track, and do what I can to improve my brain care now.”
What did the visit to the McCance Center entail?
“My first visit included some neurocognitive testing, as well as a walk through what’s called the McCance Brain Care Score®. The results were encouraging. I learned my memory is not perfect, but overall, it was reassuring.”
The Brain Care Score measures 10 different factors, including BMI, alcohol consumption, exercise, sleep, blood pressure, social relationships and more. The higher the score, the better—everyone can improve their brain care, at any age.
What are you already doing to maintain or improve your brain health?
“Well, as a pilot, every two years I have to take a certification exam, both on the ground and flying the plane, and I choose to take it annually. Memory is a huge part of successfully passing the exam, and it keeps me sharp to always have that goal. Beyond serving as a PALS/Angel Flight pilot, my work as a pilot has allowed me to invest in real estate outside of Massachusetts. Both pursuits are really important to me, especially the opportunity to serve the families in need, and they keep me highly motivated to pass the pilot’s exam.”
“Also, I was motivated during COVID to learn Spanish, which is a huge test of memory, for me! I am a director of a company based in Guatemala, so it’s been enormously satisfying to be able to build better relationships with these colleagues now that I’m learning Spanish, and hopefully plan some travel there as well.”
What interventions did Dr. Chemali recommend?
“To begin with, I learned from Dr. Chemali that I should avoid taking prescription sleep medication, and try other things, like melatonin or magnesium. She also recommended taking vitamin D and fish oil, and using cacao powder as nutritional supplements.”
What are the next steps at the McCance Clinic?
Dr. Chemali says, “The next steps for Mr. Ansin include an MRI of the brain, and additional testing for biomarkers, which, based on our McCance Brain Age Index will help us know what interventions, if any, will make sense now or in the future. Mr. Ansin is ahead of the curve in proactively working to care more for his brain, and we’re very excited to support him on this journey.”