A study conducted at the University of California gives hope to the millions of Alzheimer’s patients, having been able to reverse the memory loss associated with the condition, changing life patterns and behaviors. But not everyone agrees that this is the most appropriate treatment, at least until further research is done.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and consists of the gradual loss of memory and the consequent difficulty in carrying out intellectual activities, which interferes with the routine of daily life. Although it is generally associated with age, and it is true that most people who suffer from it are over 65 years of age, up to 5% of patients develop it earlier in their 40s or 50s.
Although Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease with no cure, it seems possible to slow or lessen its effects. A study led by Dr. Dale Bredesen, a professor of neurology at the University of California, explains that the general plan to achieve this involves making changes in the diet (cutting out simple carbohydrates and processed foods), exercising regularly, reducing stress, form good sleep habits (7 to 8 hours a night), and take supplements, such as curcumin (or turmeric), fish oil, coconut oil, resveratrol, coenzyme Q10, and vitamins D3 and B12. In some cases, hormone therapy was also used.
According to the study, published in the journal Aging , the full regimen has 36 different components, or therapies, but can vary from individual to individual. Dr. Bredesen cites the cases of 10 patients who followed the program. Half of them had mild mental impairment or early-stage Alzheimer’s. In the others, Alzheimer’s was more advanced, and the patients achieved normal scores on tests of memory and thinking, but complained of difficulties with daily living. Only one patient, with advanced Alzheimer’s, did not respond to therapy.
Dr. Bredesen said the patients’ daily lives had changed a lot after the study, with some even returning to their jobs after they had stopped working. But at the same time, he says further studies are needed to validate the findings.
Other experts, such as Heather Snyder of the Alzheimer’s Association of Chicago and Dr. James Galvin, a professor at Langone Medical Center in New York, also think it’s too early to draw any definitive conclusions, although the program points that are based on diet, physical activity and inflammation in the body have scientific validity. According to Dr. Galvin, it is difficult to evaluate specific therapies, especially the use of supplements, based only on case studies. There is not enough information to know why these supplements were chosen or how the doses were calculated.
Although according to Dr. Galvin, the study therapies have no benefit used individually, Dr. Bredesen points out that the key to a good outcome is the combination of therapies. According to him, “It is not a general program for everyone. Each person has a different chemistry.”
Regardless of whether subsequent research confirms the validity of the study, what can you do while it is being conducted? According to the American Alzheimer’s Society, there are certain measures that can help you fight the disease even before it appears. For example:
1. Exercise. It is essential to maintain normal blood flow to the brain and to form new brain cells. In addition, it reduces the risk of heart attacks, cerebrovascular accidents (strokes) and diabetes. Exercises don’t have to be strenuous. Activities like walking, bicycling, gardening, doing yoga moves, in short, any activity that makes you move your body and get your heart beating faster is beneficial.
2. Adopt a “brain-healthy” diet. Fat and cholesterol contribute to strokes and brain damage. Studies show that a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol clogs arteries, which is associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Follow a diet low in these substances, and rich in dark fruits and vegetables, fish and dried fruits (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc.), which contain antioxidant elements and help protect brain cells.
3. Lead an active social life. According to several studies, people who are socially active retain brain vitality. Activities like traveling, attending sports and cultural events, or volunteering at charities help you form personal relationships with others. And interacting with other people not only makes your life more enjoyable, it reduces stress, which helps you maintain healthy connections between brain cells.
4. Stay mentally active (or). Activities that stimulate your mind help strengthen brain cells and the connections between them, and can even create new brain cells! Read, write, solve crossword puzzles and word games, attend lectures and plays, learn a new language, enroll in courses for adults, try memory exercises, etc. Anything that makes your brain work helps keep it alert.
Try to put all these recommendations into practice, gradually, thus changing your lifestyle. The more of them you practice, the better, since the combination of them is key not only to delay Alzheimer’s but also to reduce the risk of other physical and mental illnesses, and to lead a healthier and more fulfilling life.