15 Sep Reversing Alzheimer’s, One Step at a Time
Reversing Alzheimer’s, One Step at a Time
Let’s get serious for a minute. Alzheimer’s has devastated so many people’s lives. Its not only the person receiving the diagnosis that’s impacted but also their entire family as well. I myself have a family history of Alzheimers and for those of you out there who have a personal connection to this scary illness– or if you’ve ever watched someone go through it, you know how final and hopeless an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can feel.
Up until very recently, the conventional thinking was that once you’re diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, there was pretty much no hope. You’d be put on medications for the rest of your life while coping with the inevitable symptoms, and chances were that the disease would lead to an earlier death. Considering this very grim prognosis, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear that nearly half of all people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s also suffer from significant depression.
But things in the world of Alzheimer’s research are changing, and I’m very excited to share some of those changes with you.
Hope Is on the Horizon
Today the future of Alzheimer’s is looking a lot brighter! Not too long ago, scientists started searching beyond medication for ways to slow, stop, and even reverse the progression of the disease.
In 2016, researchers overseeing a small trial discovered that a comprehensive treatment based on 36 different factors, including changes in diet, exercise, and sleep, along with medication, vitamins, and brain stimulation therapy could literally reverse memory loss and cognitive impairment to the point where patients were returning to work.
I was so excited to see this research come out because we offer a very similar protocol for patients with Alzheimer’s and mental decline get their lives back at our brain and autoimmune healing center. You can read their findings here. And I recommend you do because it’s very cool to see science validating these cutting-edge natural interventions!
While not everyone is ready to commit to such an intensive program the good news is that another study found that exercise alone – a safe, free “treatment” with only the best side effects – can improve cognitive function and memory in older adults.
So let’s look at why physical activity can be so beneficial to both those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as well as people who may be in the early stages of the disease without knowing it.
Yes! We tend to think of Alzheimer’s as being this clear-cut disease with a specific set of symptoms, but the actual changes in the brain that lead to Alzheimer’s begin to develop ten to twenty years before most patients receive an actual diagnosis! And even once someone has that diagnosis, the disease doesn’t progress overnight.
That’s actually a VERY good thing because it means there are safe, natural strategies a person can use to slow down, stop, or even reverse those processes before they result in full-blown Alzheimer’s. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of addressing signs of cognitive decline sooner then later. Although its possible to slow, stop and even reverse the symptoms of Alzheimer’s the further along it has progressed the harder it is to unravel the physiological root causes for the disease.
Here are the stages of Alzheimer’s:
Stage 1: Subjective Cognitive Impairment
In this stage, my patients report the kinds of forgetfulness that we all might experience, like losing your car keys, losing your train of thought or having a ‘senior moment’. However, when I run standard tests looking for pathology there aren’t any objective findings like changes in the size or structure of the brain.
Stage 2: Mild Cognitive Impairment
At this point, issues with forgetfulness may or may not be getting worse but this time when I run cognitive assessments and tests like MRIs I find actual, measurable changes in both brain function and in the physical structure of the brain.
Stage 3: Alzheimer’s
When a family member brings a patient to see me who is in the third stage, they’ve already lost the ability to do simple things most of us take for granted, like being able to work or to care for themselves or their families. At this point, the life of the patient and the lives of their loved ones are dramatically affected by the disease.
Why We Forget
As you can see, before they’ve reached the endgame of Alzheimer’s, there is clearly a lot happening in the brain. When we talk about the different symptoms of early Alzheimer’s like forgetfulness, moodiness, and depression, what we’re actually talking about are clues that unwanted changes are taking place in the brain.
One of the changes that is happening in brains affected by Alzheimer’s, dementia, and even just simple forgetfulness is shrinking in the area of the brain known as the hippocampus. It’s the part of the brain critical for learning and memory, so when it atrophies, forgetfulness, confusion, and other cognitive problems are the inevitable result.
Another change is decreased connectivity between areas of the brain. Basically, different parts of the brain can’t communicate with one another and so a person’s knowledge and experience become inaccessible to them. The ability to learn new things is also compromised. The thing that I find so fascinating and exciting is that there is evidence that although their memories may be inaccessible, they are still there. And I see this in my practice every day– when patients go on my brain healing protocols many of them begin to get their memories back or are able to recall things much faster.
Exercise & the Brain
Let’s get back to the research showing that something as simple as physical exercise can regrow areas of the brain that have been shrunk or damaged by Alzheimer’s and also restore connectivity to different parts of the brain. It’s really exciting to think that getting up and moving can have such a profound impact on our brains!
But wait, you may be thinking, exercise is hard. Finding the time is tough enough, but committing to some hardcore fitness plan is going to be almost impossible for a lot of people. That may be true but the good news is that the exercise that researchers found had a restorative effect in Alzheimer’s patients was…
Walking. And not power walking for hours at a time, but rather walking for 40 minutes a day just three times a week. That’s all it took for the hippocampus to increase in volume and for study participants to see a measurable improvement in their ability to remember things.
That’s amazing, right? Simply moving your body and stimulating the senses can activate pathways in the nervous system and literally make your brain cells grow. Turns out exercise isn’t just good for your heart and your other muscles but also your brain and, what’s even better, you can do it right now without a gym membership or a personal trainer! You just need to get up and go.
So, whether you have family history of Alzheimer’s or forgetfulness is just something you’re dealing with right now or you just received a diagnosis, join me in taking a few more walks this week. Wherever you are in your personal journey, I promise you there is hope! The brain can and does heal when you give it the appropriate treatment, care and love.
To Your Total Health,
Dr. Titus Chiu