June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month. When you hear or see the word Alzheimer’s, you probably think doom and gloom. Like, it’s just something that happens to older people and there’s really nothing that can be done to prevent or reverse it.
The latest statistics seem to support that theory:
1. Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and may be the 3rd leading cause of death for older people (behind heart disease and cancer).
2. An estimated 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s (AD) is just one type of dementia, others include Lewy Body, vascular, frontotemporal, and mixed type. Dementia, by definition, is the loss of cognitive functioning (the ability to think, remember, problem solve, and reason) that interferes with normal activities of daily living. Patients can experience mild to severe forms of dementia and even with conventional treatment, it always progresses to a more severe form and eventually, death.
My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in her late 60's and it was devastating to see someone so active and healthy deteriorate and lose her independence. While it's certainly difficult for the person with the disease, the immediate caregivers and family members probably suffer the most. My grandmother's diagnosis eventually led to her death, but was also the root cause of my grandfather's death as well. He cared for her for years and developed a deep depression that could not be remedied. If I had only known then what I know now, things might have turned out differently.
There is now solid research showing Alzheimer's as a preventable and reversible disease, but this is still not being taught/recognized in conventional medicine. When someone gets an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, they are placed on medication (which actually does more harm than good) and then told to get their affairs in order. (We saw this scenario play out this week with another new Alzheimer's medication being approved by the FDA with no indication that it actually works).
So, what are people at risk of and diagnosed with dementia supposed to do? Simply accept their fate? Fortunately, in the world of functional medicine and functional nutrition – amazing things are happening! There is finally hope for people with Alzheimer’s and all types of brain diseases and it has to do with the environment, nutrition, and lifestyle.
For years, AD research has been aimed at targeting beta-amyloid plaque formation. If we could avoid/target these amyloid plaques with medications, then AD could be prevented or cured. But the latest research shows there is no one root cause of AD at all. AD, in fact, is rooted in inflammation, chronic pathogen exposure, trophic withdrawal, insulin resistance, vascular compromise, trauma, and toxin exposure and each patient has personalized exposures and risk factors to address.
A one-size-fits-all approach, like a medication, is rarely beneficial in any chronic disease and when it comes to AD, a personalized approach is even more critical.
New research by Dr. Dale Bredesen is changing the way we think about and treat Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Dr. Bredesen and his team are the first to publish clinical studies showing significant reversal of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s and pre-Alzheimer’s patients with their protocol.
The team has created a model of treatment that addresses each patient as an individual and works to target each dementia-contributing factor the patient may have.
· Identifying and treating pathogens like the herpes virus.
· Identifying alterations in the gastrointestinal tract lining and correcting increased
intestinal permeability and microbiome imbalances.
· Identifying insulin resistance and restoring insulin sensitivity.
· Identifying and correcting suboptimal nutrient and hormone levels.
· Identifying toxins and working to increase detoxification pathways and limit toxin
Since no two patients are alike, each treatment plan is personalized based on the patient's risk and exposure. Dementia, therefore, is no longer a death sentence.
When it comes to nutrition and lifestyle for the prevention of dementia, much research has been completed and there are some simple strategies to implement daily. We know that diet patterns like the Mediterranean and MIND diets have shown much promise for protecting delicate brain tissues. In general, these diets promote the consumption of wholesome types of food daily and the avoidance of potentially inflammatory types of food.
Foods to include every day:
1. Vegetables, especially green leafy
2. Berries, especially blueberries
5. Whole grains
7. Olive oil
Foods to avoid:
1. Fast or Fried foods
2. Highly processed foods
3. Conventional red meat
4. Conventional dairy
5. Margarine and inflammatory fats
6. Pastries and sweets
Lifestyle strategies for the prevention of AD and other types of dementia include:
Minimize toxin exposure (choose organic foods and grass-fed animal products, drink filtered water, eliminate toxic body products, utilize an air filter, use non-toxic cleaning products, avoid toxic cookware and use glass containers to store food, have mercury fillings removed safely)
Manage your stress in a healthy way (think meditation, exercise, yoga, tai-chi, deep breathing, journaling)
Get a healthy, restful sleep (7-9 hours per night, uninterrupted in a cold, dark environment)
Create a community (friends, family, coworkers can all be a part of your social support system)
While dementia and brain disease may seem like things that are out of our control, It’s important to remember that nutrition and lifestyle are extremely important when it comes to overall health, including brain health. If you want to prevent dementia, start now by changing what you eat and how you live your life – your future self will thank you! If you are already experiencing the symptoms of cognitive decline or know someone who is, seek out a functional medicine practitioner that specializes in brain health.
To learn more about your personal risk factors and to have a personalized plan, contact us for a free 15-minute discovery call.