Have you noticed that your memory is not as sharp as it used to be? Is this a normal consequence of getting older or could Alzheimer's be on the horizon? Can you reverse it or stop its progression?
Research has shed a new light on what constitutes healthy aging of the brain. The inability to remember details, such as the location of objects, begins in early midlife (the 40s) and may be the result of a change in what information the brain focuses on during memory formation and retrieval, rather than a decline in brain function.
Brain changes associated with Alzheimer's dementia are now thought to arise decades before the onset of symptoms. A key question in current memory research concerns which changes in the brain are a normal part of the aging process versus those that are not.
Young adults use their visual memory to recall information. But as we get older, we start to use a different part of the brain, known to be involved with information pertaining to our own life and reflection.
This may not be a ‘deficit’ in brain function per se, but reflects changes in what adults deem ‘important information’ as they age. In other words, middle-aged and older individuals are simply focusing on different aspects of the event, compared to their younger counterparts.
Older adults might improve their recall abilities by learning to focus on external, rather than internal information. This may be why some research has suggested that mindful meditation is related to better cognitive aging. (1)
How is normal memory decline differentiated from early Alzheimer's dementia? There is no currently available test or easy accessible information that can distinguish them accurately.
But some clues can help. Long before Alzheimer’s disease can be diagnosed clinically, increasing difficulties building cognitive maps of new surroundings may herald the eventual clinical onset of the disorder. Patients with early pre-clinical Alzheimer's dementia exhibit clear difficulties both in learning an established route and finding their own way to new landmarks. Problems finding your way around may be earliest sign of Alzheimer’s disease. (2)
Another simple test that might help is the Smell Identification Test conducted by the University of Pennsylvania. Losing your sense of smell for peanut butter from your left nostril is an early sign of the disease. (3)
What can we do to prevent and hopefully reverse memory loss? The good news is there is a comprehensive program that is proven to help, if we start early.
Alzheimer’s disease stems from an imbalance in nerve cell signaling. In the normal brain, specific signals foster nerve connections and memory accumulation, while balancing signals support loss of irrelevant information. In Alzheimer’s disease, the balance of these opposing signals is disturbed, nerve connections are suppressed, and pertinent memories are lost.
The current approach is that Alzheimer's is a disease of toxicity, cause by accumulation of sticky plaques in the brain. The approach to remove this plaque has been unproductive and sometimes even caused progression of the disease.
Dr. Bredesen, the leading investigator at Bucks Institute at the UCLA, states: “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.”
His MEND (Metabolic Enhancement for Neurodegeneration) protocol is personalized to each patient, based on extensive testing to determine what is affecting the plasticity signaling network of the brain and includes, but not limited to:
1) eliminate all simple carbohydrates, leading to a weight loss of 20 pounds
2) eliminate gluten and processed food from the diet, with increased vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish
3) reduce stress, thru yoga or meditation for 20 minutes twice per day
4) increase sleep to 7-8 hours per night
5) add supplements, such as: methylcobalamin, vitamin D3, fish oil, CoQ10, citicoline
6) optimize oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush
7) therapeutic fasting for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime
8) exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days per week
Results for 9 out of 10 patients suggest that memory loss can be reversed, and improvement sustained with the MEND protocol. (4).
Cognitive decline is a major concern of the aging population. Already, Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5.4 million Americans and 30 million people globally. Without effective prevention and treatment, the prospects for the future are bleak. By 2050, it’s estimated that 160 million people globally will suffer from this disease, including 13 million Americans, leading to potential bankruptcy of the Medicare system. Unlike several other chronic illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is on the rise--recent estimates suggest that AD has become the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind cardiovascular disease and cancer.
For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of memory loss and other health concerns, please schedule an appointment with Dr. Koganski, a certified MEND protocol provider, at 215-750-7000, www.newtowninternalmedicine.com.
1. Ankudowich E, et al, Changes in the modulation of brain activity during context encoding vs. context retrieval across the adult lifespan, NeuroImage, McGill University News, 07/26/2016.
2. Head D et al. Early signs of Alzheimer’s: Navigating may hold key.Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis News, 04/22/2016.
3. Stamps JJ, et al. "A brief olfactory test for Alzheimer's disease". J. Neurol. Sci. 333.
4. Bredesen D E. Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program. Aging. September 27, 2014.