Innovative Therapies to Treat and Prevent Alzheimer’s disease By Robin Miller MD, MHS and David Kahn MS, CPT
Whenever I ask patients what their biggest fear is regarding their health, the answer is fairly unanimous. They are most afraid of losing their minds. If you gave people a choice between getting cancer or Alzheimer’s, the vast majority would pick cancer. National studies reflect similar feelings all over the country. But the concern doesn’t seem to be helping the situation. In the US there are 5.4 million people who are suffering with Alzheimer’s disease. By mid-century, someone will develop the disease every 33 seconds. It is unrelenting, and as of now, there have been limited options for treatment. However, there are some promising treatments/therapies.
Researchers in Australia have taken mice that were bred to have Alzheimer’s disease and treated their brains with ultrasound. They zapped the amyloid plaques and tangles that are suspected to be responsible for the disease. After treatment, 75% of the mice reverted to normal and there was no damage to the surrounding brain tissue. Human trials are slated for 2017. This treatment could definitely be a game-changer.
Another treatment, something which may also change the prognosis for the disease, is the one implemented in the MEND study (metabolic enhancement for neurodegeneration) at UCLA. This study has shown that memory loss in patients can be reversed and sustained. Researchers used a 36-point therapeutic personalized program to effect change. The program incorporated a healthy diet, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimization, specific vitamins and medication to lower cholesterol and regulate blood pressure, and other programs such as meditation and yoga for stress relief. It was a small study that was done in ten people with varying degrees of dementia. Nine out of ten were able to reverse their disease by strictly following the program.
Finally, an important though not as recent study of seniors who were on average 75 to start with was done over the course of 21 years at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine. Researchers found there were certain activities that reduced the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Reading reduced the risk by 35%, doing crossword puzzles reduced it by 47%, playing golf; bicycling and swimming reduced it by 0%. Ballroom dancing 2-3 times a week reduced the risk by a whopping 75%!
What is exciting about all of these treatments/therapies is they do not appear to have any toxicity associated with them. It is good that zapping the brain could potentially treat the disease once it forms, and it is good that eating healthy in conjunction with exercise may reverse it. Knowing there is something fun, that is good for the body and can prevent it…now that is priceless!