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More than 40% of dementia diagnoses have been shown to be wrong. Here's what may really be going on.
Imagine this nightmare. For the last few years your mother has had serious memory problems. She gets lost driving. She repeats the same question to you over and over again. She can't process new information. She loses her train of thought in mid-sentence. A CT scan comes back with a diagnosis of early Alzheimer's disease. The doctors offer a prescription with little encouragement it will work.
Do you despair?
A new program from UCLA and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging offers new hope. In the first study of its kind, researchers have proved that natural therapies can not only slow the progress of dementia but can actually reverse it.
In a paper titled "Reversal of Cognitive Decline: A novel therapeutic program" Dr. Dale Bredesen showed how 9 out of the 10 subjects diagnosed with dementia got their minds back.[i]
Dr. Bredesen is a professor of neurology at The Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease Research at UCLA, as well as a professor at the Buck Institute. The study was supported by multiple entities including the National Institutes of Health.
Cognitive decline is a major fear as we age. According to the Alzheimer's Association "dementia is a general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life." Alzheimer's disease – just one of many forms of dementia – accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. It affects about 5.4 million Americans and 30 million people around the world. By 2050, it's expected to grow to 160 million people globally, including 13 million Americans. There is no effective treatment for Alzheimer's and it is already the third leading cause of death in the United States.
Dr. Bredesen believes that multiple factors influence the development of dementia and Alzheimer's. In a small study, he and his colleagues designed personalized and comprehensive protocols to reverse memory loss in 10 patients.
The results were remarkable. Nine of the 10 participants showed improvement in their memories within three to six months of starting the program.
Six patients had had to discontinue working or were struggling with their jobs at the time they joined the study. ALL were able to return to work or continue working with improved performance.
The subjects included five patients with memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease. The others had amnestic mild cognitive impairment, and subjective cognitive impairment.
Only one patient, diagnosed with late stage Alzheimer's, did not improve.
Doctors used a "systems approach" in treating the patients. They developed a complex, 36-point therapeutic program that includes comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry.
In a press release Dr. Bredesen stated:
The existing Alzheimer's drugs affect a single target, but Alzheimer's disease is more complex. Imagine having a roof with 36 holes in it, and your drug patched one hole very well—the drug may have worked, a single "hole" may have been fixed, but you still have 35 other leaks, and so the underlying process may not be affected much.
Dr. Bredesen's approach is based on extensive testing of each patient to determine what is affecting the signaling network in his or her brain. The protocol is then personalized for the patient. A sample protocol for one of his patients in the study included:
- eliminating all simple carbohydrates;
- eliminating gluten and processed food;
- increasing vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish;
- reducing stress with yoga and meditation;
- taking melatonin each night;
- increasing sleep from 4-5 hours per night to 7-8 hours per night;
- taking methylcobalamin (vitamin B12), vitamin D, CoQ10, and fish oil each day;
- optimizing oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush;
- hormone replacement therapy;
- fasting for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast;
- fasting for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime; and
- exercising for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days per week.
Although the downside to the program is the complexity and the number of lifestyle changes required, Dr. Bredesen noted that the only side effect of the protocol was "improved health and an optimal body mass index, a stark contrast to the side effects of many drugs."