Most of you have a family or friend who had had to deal with senile dementia or had a case of full blown Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). In fact, researchers expect AD to increase significantly within the next 5-10 years, and in some cases, this will be a 50-100% increase depending on the geographical area. Some of this increase is due to an ever-increasing aging population, especially now that baby boomers are the new elderly class.
The big questions center around what are we going to do about that. Are we like flotsam on the river of life without any self-direction? Should we just be content to wait for a magical medical miracle that will solve the AD disease problem once and for all?
It will be helpful to realize that when it comes to chronic neurological diseases, the medical model of treatment has a pretty dismal track record. Diseases like AD, ALS, Huntington’s, spinocerebellar ataxia, spinal muscle ataxia have a most spectacular rate of treatment failure with current, single-modality treatment. As long as medicine was locked into a single modality mindset, HIV-AIDS didn’t respond well at all. This disease became the poster child for thinking in a more creative, multi-modal fashion.
Fortunately, many researchers are thinking in that multi-modal fashion when it comes to age-related brain problems. One person who has been relatively outspoken about this is Dr. Dale Bredesen. Dr. Bredesen has published the only study showing a reversal of mild to moderate AD. Even though millions of dollars have been spent on finding a drug cure for AD, Dr. Bredesen has found that the best results can be found by thinking more holistically, that is by using tools available to the average person. Some real advances can be found right at home.
Because this isn’t a magic pill, it does require some effort on the part of the patient or caregiver, but it is nice to know that hope exists for those willing to begin making meaningful changes.
The holistic model works with the fact that to be high functioning our brains need to sort which memories to keep and which to discard. If this nerve signaling and memory management become impaired, cognitive decline follows.
Like many chronic diseases, AD can be due to many processes. An example is the balance of bone building (osteoblastic activity) and bone destruction (osteoclastic activity). The bone has cells that specialize in laying down new bone and other cells that specialize in absorbing bone tissue. This balance depends on many factors including diet, hormones and age and when the balance is disturbed excessive bone formation or excessive bone absorption will result. Excessive bone absorption, with respect to bone building, is a hallmark of osteoporosis.
Likewise in the brain, we have the creation of new synapses and the destruction of existing synapses. We can call these effects synaptoblastic and synaptoclastic and like bone these result in healthy brain tissue when they are in balance. Current thought is that the control of synaptoblastic and synaptoclastic signaling is the result of dozens, if not hundreds of inputs.
If you would like to read further about some of the technical aspects, you can search things like APP (amyloid precursor protein), APOE, Abeta (beta-amyloid protein), SAPP beta, SIRT1, netrin 1, NF Kappa beta, tau proteins and more. The interplay of these factors is complex and the leads to the multi-modal treatment plan. Fortunately, you don’t have to understand anything about the technical details to have treatment success.
Think of your brain like a company. The CFO gathers information from all available departments, and if the company is running in the red, he or she will first decide to stop all new hires, or in the brain analogy, stops new memories and new synapses.
A person has spent a life selecting the most critical memories, so those are maintained, things like language instead of details about a sit-com rerun from last night.
When we talk about AD, we are talking in general terms as there are three different types. The first two are best described by what is being discussed here and a very small percentage, maybe less than 1% are more genetic in nature and can truly be labeled a disease in that regard.
When the brain can’t effectively support the extensive synaptic network for a few quadrillion synapses, the brain sends out 4 biochemicals SAPP Beta, Abeta (beta amyloid), JCASP and C31 (from APP) that mediate downsizing of synapses. Some medications target these biochemicals and help to reduce this signaling. You can buy some time with targeted medications, but that doesn’t change the reason for the release of signaling for the downsizing. For example, reducing Abeta activity and concentrations with drug therapy has not changed the Alzheimer’s outcomes very much if at all.
So what should we be looking at to help reduce the stress on the brain and subsequent degenerative dementia and/or Alzheimer’s? We must first abandon the one size fits all notion. Each person must be evaluated to see how many risk factors are present. Healthy people tend to have 2 or 3 associated factors out of ideal range and compromised people tend to have 10 or more indicators out of range. We are looking at things like copper and zinc, mercury levels, testosterone, estradiol, progesterone and pregnenolone, homocysteine, iodine, B12, insulin, HbA1C, sleep patterns, stress levels, lack of exercise, CRP, Vitamin D3, the amount of grains in diet and a few more.
Because this is complex and because we want you to have success in preventing and treating this age-related cognitive decline, we are working on putting together a website dedicated to helping you do just that. We will address assessment of risk factors and give you ideas for addressing each item that you find out of ideal range. We plan to use articles, blogs, podcasts, videos and educational quizzes to help you understand your specific situation and give you tools to help maximize your success.