Last weekend I was in Victoria for the funeral of a close family friend, my “other mother”. Mrs. Mac lived close by and was my mom’s best friend when we were growing up. She had a big truck and would pile us in for a trip to the beach, to Sunday school, or simply get us off Mom’s hands when she needed a break. She was our Brownie leader, the assistant at our school and her family and ours spent many camping trips and Christmas holidays together. My love of gardening and hiking are largely a result of her early influence in my life.
Both my Mom and Mrs. Mac had early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The reasons why are unclear. They ate well, got lots of exercise, and by all accounts were both very healthy. The randomness of their condition was and is frustrating and frightening. My siblings, Mrs. Mac’s kids (my “other brother and sister”) and I are at higher than average risk for this disease. Because of this, over the past 12 years, I have spent much time researching and implementing prevention strategies. I call it my Dementia Prevention Plan.
The current medical approach for dementia has been largely focused on finding a drug to reverse or at least stop the progress of this condition. The results have not been successful. Although some drugs seemed to slow the progress, in fact, what happens is only a short holding pattern, followed by a rapid decline in most cases. There has been some slowly accumulating evidence about the benefit of certain supplements such as fish oil and B vitamins in preventing dementia, but nothing on reversal once the condition has started. That is, until now.
In September 2014 a paper was published in a journal called Aging, in which a University of California team showed a REVERSAL in cognitive decline in 9 out of 10 patients with dementia. The only patient who did not improve had advanced disease. Although it is a small number of people, the results are indisputable, and, for me, both hopeful and exciting.
The study showed that, rather than looking for a single, magical drug, success was achieved by applying individual programs based on correcting underlying imbalances in the body. The tests and treatments used were very naturopathic in their approach. The approach included improvements in diet, sleep and exercise and stress management. Factors such as B12, vitamin D, fasting insulin, homocysteine, and hormone levels where measured, and optimized as needed. Supplements were used to address a number of factors including mitochondria function, gut health, inflammation and brain function. I was encouraged to learn that much of what I had already been doing for prevention was part of this study. While this approach does require lifestyle changes and a number of supplements, the researchers were happy to report that the only “side effects” where improvements in overall health and well-being.
If you would like help developing your dementia prevention program, please call and book an appointment. If you are interested in attending a talk on this topic, call the office and let us know. Talks are regularly scheduled throughout the year. It now appears that there is much that can be done to both prevent and even reverse early dementia. If this is a concern for you, it is good to know that you have options.
By Dr. Loreen Dawson, ND