Alzheimer's disease is a frightening prospect for many people. And it's especially scary because scientists haven't yet found a way to cure it. Some researchers focus on one area, such as amyloid beta plaques in the brain, while others focus on another area, such as diet. But according to Dale Bredesen, a professor of neurology at UCLA, there's a problem with this approach. What's the problem? They're all right!
Bredesen explains, "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, and a single hole may have been fixed, but you still have 35 other leaks, and so the underlying process may not be affected much."
To deal with all of these "leaks," Bredesen believes a much more comprehensive approach to treating Alzheimer's disease is necessary. To test this theory, Bredesen and colleagues recruited 10 participants for a study conducted by the UCLA Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer's Disease and Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. And of those 10 participants, nine improved after three to six months! Those are tremendous results for people with an "incurable" disease.
The study engaged the participants in a complex 36-point therapeutic program and involved extensive testing to help personalize the approach for each patient. For example, one patient was instructed to remove all simple carbohydrates, gluten, and processed food from her diet. She needed to eat more fruits and vegetables and non-farmed fish, meditate twice a day, and start yoga to reduce her stress levels.
The patient had been sleeping for four or five hours a night; she was instructed to increase to seven to eight hours. She began taking melatonin, methylcobalamin, vitamin D3, fish oil, and coenzyme Q10 as well as restarting the hormone therapy she had discontinued earlier. She fasted for at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, with at least three of those hours being between dinner and bedtime. She began exercising for at least 30 minutes four to six times a week. She even began using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush to improve her oral hygiene.
And she improved! Was this a drastic change to her lifestyle? Yes. But was it worth it to reverse the devastating slide into Alzheimer's? Absolutely.
Bredesen is quick to caution that the results of this study need to be replicated in further research. But all of these lifestyle changes have numerous benefits. Begin implementing some of these changes today, and you may gratefully remember making the choice to do so for many years to come.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
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"Memory loss associated with Alzheimer's reversed for first time," UCLA Health System, 10/03/2014.