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How WHOOP is Brightening Our Holidays in 2020 and Beyond

December 9, 2020

Helping My Family Friend Overcome Chronic Illness

By Alex Shinkarovsky

At Thanksgiving last year, in 2019, I found out that a very close family friend was pre-diabetic. I also already knew that he was struggling with some typical age-related memory impairments. Since my grandfather, the head of our family, had just passed away in the same year (having suffered from Alzeimer’s Dementia [AD] and diabetes as well), the thought of losing another person with whom I’d shared holidays and vacations growing up made me realize what was at stake.

I immediately resolved to do my best to help him avoid the same fate as my grandfather. To respect my friend’s privacy, I’ll refer to him as “Bob.”

My first thought was to do as much research as possible on chronic illness. As a wellness consultant and a personal trainer, I was already very much focused on how my clients spent the other 23 hours of their days, beyond just our exercise sessions. I learned how lifestyle choices, in combination with genetic factors, increased the risk of developing both metabolic disorders like diabetes and memory-related illnesses like AD.

I’d also recently gotten into WHOOP, and had caught a podcast with Dr. Richard Isaacson on Alzheimer’s. It touched on personal stories of close family members suffering from memory loss, and discussed the broader, widespread nature of the disease. After learning that a staggering 46 million Americans have Stage 1, pre-symptomatic AD, and that proper sleep and exercise can significantly hamstring its further progression, I was extremely motivated to communicate this to Bob.


A WHOOP Membership & 20-Page Letter

For his birthday, I gave Bob a 6-month membership to WHOOP. He’s someone who enjoys numbers and is very much a logical thinker, but also does not love to be digitally connected. I figured he would appreciate the non-invasiveness of WHOOP. Along with the gift, I wrote Bob a 20-page letter. My message was two-fold:

One, memory loss and diabetes are not inevitable, and no one is powerless in the face of their progression. My goal was to communicate, in very clear terms, how simply he could get his health back on track. No fad diets, hiring a trainer or medication were necessary. In fact, all the anxiety and stress he was experiencing due to the pre-diabetes diagnosis and his “senior moments” could be tempered by following Dr. Isaacson’s 4 recommendations for chronic disease prevention and management:

  • Cardiovascular exercise
  • Improved sleep quality and duration
  • Better nutrition
  • “Knowing your numbers”

And two, our surroundings inform your behavioral biases. I detailed how, while many Americans, including his family, friends, co-workers and acquaintances, are largely detrained and sedentary, that was not how life “should” be. To make it really resonate, I specifically wrote about a few mutual friends with unaddressed (but preventable) health issues.

In short, I told Bob that he needed to break the negative intergenerational health cycle in his family and that WHOOP could help. With a daily objective and unobtrusive feedback loop on the exact behaviors he needed to change, he had a chance to really take control of his health, without overcomplicating it or stressing himself further.


Positive Lifestyle Changes and Impact in the Data

To his credit, Bob jumped into this journey with full commitment. First, he started riding a stationary bike daily for 45 minutes. His average day strain increased from 6.7 in February to 8.8 in October (see heat-map graphic below). Bob also got a better handle on his sleep. It gave him real peace of mind to track this and learn he was sleeping sufficiently and getting good quality sleep. Finally, he and his wife started eating specific foods for brain health (like blueberries, leafy greens and dark chocolate) and cut out processed bread and added sugar.

A heat map showing a WHOOP member's day strain for the past year.

Bob’s daily WHOOP strain this year, with darker squares representing greater cardiovascular exertion.

As of October 2020, Bob’s biomarkers are no longer pre-diabetic. Since January, his average resting heart rate has decreased by two beats per minute from 62 to 60, and his average heart rate variability has increased from 23 to 29! Additionally, Bob’s average daily WHOOP recovery has risen from 45% to 63%. He’s also down 20 pounds and quite a bit in body fat percentage, and he’s feeling much more like himself again.

In fact, he even renewed his WHOOP subscription recently on his own, a testament to how it has helped him stick to his plan.

I write this because I know how many of us look at those close to us and wish they could avoid what seems like almost unavoidable future health crises. Well, I can tell you that it is possible and it is never too late. I have great hopes that even if someday Bob does develop Alzheimer’s Dementia symptoms, it will be many years later than it could have been. And because of the actions he took in 2020, I’m confident we will enjoy much more time and many future holidays together.


The products and services of WHOOP are not medical devices, are not intended to diagnose COVID-19, the flu or any other disease, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content available through the products and services of WHOOP is for general informational purposes only.

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Alex Shinkarovsky

Alex Shinkarovsky is the Founder of _break virtual wellness, which helps companies unlock employee appreciation through movement sessions. Alex is also a private wellness consultant and trainer in Williamsburg, NYC. Check out his Instagram @alexlovescardio for tips and heuristics on how to win the other 23 hours of the day.