Alzheimer Breakthrough? Bredeson’s The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline

Death has many doorways. Yet most of us go by way of heart disease, cancer, or respiratory disease; in fact, 50%.

The good thing is that we can preempt these diseases, if not reverse them through lifestyle changes.

Not so when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, ranking sixth for causes of mortality. Shockingly prevalent, some 5.4 million Americans have it, with 200,000 of them below the age of sixty-five. All of them will die.

Estimates have it that this number will swell to 14 million by 2050.

Cost wise, treating dementia comes to a mind-blowing $250 billion annually .

Alzheimer’s differs from other types of dementia in that ultimately you become totally unable to perform normal body functions and require round the clock monitoring. You also lose long and short term memory. Alzheimer patients live in an eternal present. There is neither a past or future.

Aside from stroke, it may consequently be the illness we fear most.

But it could be that a breakthrough has appeared, thanks to the diligent clinical research of neurologist Dr. Dale Bredeson at UCLA, who has researched the disease for 30 years. For the first time, we have evidence that those strictly heeding his protocol can both prevent and even reverse early Alzheimer’s. The proof lies in some 200 plus survivors of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early stage Alzheimer’s who’ve experienced either remission or reversal.

Bredeson details his research in his just published (2017) The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to End and Reverse Cognitive Decline.  When I learned that Maria Shriver enthusiastically endorsed the book, along with several respected neurologists on the forefront of Alzheimer research, I was hooked.

In September, I lost my sister, though probably due to vascular dementia, not Alzheimer’s. Additionally, I had already become more sensitive as an older person to the the plight of those confronting cognitive decline in either themselves or their loved ones and, of course, my own potential fate in growing older.

I’ve now read the book, difficult going in some places because of the underlying genetic and chemical factors involved, but worth your time, though Bredeson says you can skip such chapters if you want. I read the entire book in three days, virtually mesmerized.

Presently, there are four principal drugs used to treat Alzheimer’s. At best, while perhaps relieving confusion or memory loss, they’re ineffectual in halting the ultimate ravages of this progressive illness.

Bredeson attributes this to the current medical paradigm of treating Alzheimer’s as a single disease rather than the consequence of several contributing causes. Almost always, Alzheimer’s is described as simply a build-up of beta-amyloid and tau proteins, resulting in abnormal plaque deposits that damage brain cells and promote consequent memory loss. Find the right pharmaceutical formula—and bingo!—you’ll slow or prevent the disease.

As to what causes the excessive amyloid/tau accretion, conjectures exist, but none of them validated. As with virtually all contemporary medicine, we treat the symptoms rather than cause.

Bredeson proposes that Alzheimer’s is primarily a response to inflammatory insults (e.g., infections, or trans fats, sub-optimal nutrients, trophic factors and/or hormone levels, toxic compounds including bio-toxins such as those from mole or bacteria), any and all of which contribute to an imbalance between reorganization of older and newer synapses, the latter not sufficiently produced to replace the former synapses and enhance healthy neuron molecule production.

Bredeson further contends there are three subtypes of Alzheimer’s inflammatory response initiated principally by the common genetic variable ApoE4, each requiring its own treatment protocol.

75 million Americans carry a single copy of ApoE4, giving them a 30 percent risk for the disease. If you have two copies of the ApoE4, one from each of your parents, you have a substantially higher than 50 percent risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Presently, that’s 7 million of us.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s usually appear when you’re in your sixties or seventies, traceable in blood-work that identifies your subtype, requiring a specific treatment protocol, though we know Alzheimer’s can sometimes occur earlier.

Obviously, genetic evaluation is required as a starting point in treatment. Catching Alzheimer’s in its early stage, especially when asymptomatic, may halt or slow its progression. Simply following the present medical scenario of trying to reduce amyloid-beta production is ineffectual unless its inducers are eliminated.

Everyone 45 and up should undergo a “cognoscopy,” or genetic and blood work-ups, Bredeson contends.

Bredeson’s treatment formula, called ReCODE, is potentially expensive, requiring in addition to the usual lifestyle formulae of a healthy diet, sufficient sleep, exercise,  elimination of stress, numerous supplements, and brain exercise. In short, such treatment would seemingly exclude those with marginal income.

You may also find it difficult to locate a ReCODE physician in your area, although word is spreading and more physicians are practicing it.

Bredeson’s ketogenic diet recommendation, not the previously reported Mediterranean diet, may likewise prove challenging, if not unpalatable for many, requiring substantially reduced carbohydrate intake, replaced by healthy fats. No sweets or grains. It also includes twelve hour fasting daily. Meat choices should derive from grass-fed beef and free-range chickens. Be careful about mercury laden fish like tuna. Alaska salmon is your better choice.

Chapters 8-9 detail 36 factors that individually or collectively may induce Alzheimer’s. Eliminating these is essential and requires discipline, which perhaps many, even if they can afford treatment, will find difficult. You simply can’t cheat. Alzheimer’s doesn’t take holidays.

Bredeson also gives readers sample programs that two of his patients with mild cognitive impairment have pursued successfully, with the caveat that the regimen must be life-long.

Refreshingly cautious, Bredeson isn’t proposing he’s actually found a cure, but rather that those in Alzheimer’s early stages heeding his research-based protocol faithfully have proven to be successful thus far. Depart from the regimen in even minor aspects and you’ll retrogress.

As he’s commented elsewhere, “The longest we have a person on the program is four and a half years. We’ve not had a single example yet out of hundreds in which someone has gone on the program, gotten better, stayed on the program, and then gotten worse.”

Leonard Hood, M.D., Ph. D, National Medal of Science recipient, writes that “Dr. Bredeson has provided enormous hope for the heretofore intractable clinical problem of Alzheimer’s. Bredeson’s early studies suggest that this approach can halt and in many cases reverse early Alzheimer’s.”

This is good news!
—rj

Why Memorize a Poem?

memory (1)I’ve been thinking about memorizing some of my favorite poems. I remember how in the fifth grade in Philly each of us had to take a chair beside our teacher’s desk when our time came and recite a poem of at least 28-lines.

I honesty can’t recall the purpose of the exercise and don’t even remember the poem I chose. I suspect Mrs. Hazlitt was trying to instill in us a kinship with poetry, allowing us to choose freely a poem that struck our fancy and have us, through memorizing it, engage it thoroughly.

Some of the boys I hung out with made quite a feat of it, putting away more than the minimal requirement in pursuit of bragging rights.

I wonder if some teachers still encourage memorizing an occasional poem. I was in education, if you count college teaching, for forty years and can’t remember any pedagogy recommendation or state mandated requirement. Except for my fifth grade teacher, I never bumped into a memorization stipulation again.

As it stands, I’m curious if poetry is given any serious attention in today’s public schools in our information age of sophisticated technology and pervasive teaching to the test, though I suspect it might still happen in the private sector, or prep schools.

I happen to think there’s value in memorizing poetry. Let me count the ways, pilfering a famous line from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s sonnet, “How do I Love Thee,” certainly a poem widely loved by the Victorian middle classes and probably frequently memorized by bedazzled lovers.

It exercises my brain: Now don’t laugh. I’ve gathered quite a few years along the way, and I’d like to think, that just maybe, it’s something I can do to ward off dementia or Alzheimer’s. They say doing mind-things like crossword puzzles, chess, Sudoko, or learning a new language may possibly massage our gray matter. Why not add memorization to the list and, while at it, pursue some of the mellifluously expressed truths of human experience?

It helps me navigate stress: I think it much nicer to draw on a Shakespeare passage to relieve a bout with insomnia than count sheep or numbers backward. If you’re into the Bible, young David sang psalms to the troubled King Saul to relieve his anxiety. I can almost guarantee that not a few have found Psalm 23 (the shepherd’s psalm) a good fit for tight places.

It’s an accomplishment in its own right: Hey, how many people today, even among English majors–or profs like me–can strut their stuff with Hamlet’s famed soliloquy or pull off Keats’ glorious seasonal indulgence by reciting his sensory sonnet, ” To Autumn”?

By the way, when I was learning my trade, I was lucky to come across one of the most memorable teachers I would ever encounter, Dr Maddox, up there in years, but able, effortlessly, to take a poem or prose passage in our American Literature class and embellish it with effortless recall of kindred passages across the spectrum. In doing so, he resonated the beauty at the center of literary art.

It makes a poem a part of you:   I’m assuming some of you who read my posts enjoy poetry, since I write about poetry every so often or employ it in my blog. It can be hard work, but memorizing a poem has a way of getting into the sinew of your psyche, or what we used to call, soul.

But why bother with the memory stuff when you can just whip out your smartphone and google up your favorite poem?

Besides, poetry memorization was well-suited for times of isolation; but in our electronic age, no such thing. We’re all virtually connected–wherever, whenever. Ours is a noisy, busy, meddlesome world.

In rebuttal, I like how Brad Leithauser put it in his engaging New Yorker piece, “Why We Should Memorize” (2013): “The best argument for verse memorization may be that it provides us with knowledge of a qualitatively and physiologically different variety: you take the poem inside you, into your brain chemistry if not your blood, and you know it at a deeper, bodily level than if you simply read it off a screen.”

I like that! We wear wedding rings, collect CD’s and DVD’s, record on our VCR’s, store our photos, etc., so they can be with us whenever we want them, and often we do, for they represent life moments when we laughed or cried or were intrigued, spellbound, elated. and, of course, loved–wives, sweethearts, children, friends, pets. As such, they comprise our “spots of beauty” in a sea of flux, bequeathing ports of safety and solace defiant of time.

But when you memorize a poem, it transcends any material repository of recall. Indeed, I think of it as something akin to the communion service, the bread and wine becoming flesh.

I’m with Keats in all this. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” How much more so, when through memory it becomes a salient part of you and me!

–rj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory: Something to be Cherished

Do you ever get something tossing around in your head that seemingly you can’t get rid of no matter how you try?  I get that way when I listen to music, for example, the lyrics wearing down my synapses like “We had it all/ Just like Bogie and Becall/ Starring in our old late, late show/Sailing to Key Largo.”  But sometimes it’s a memory that pops up, crazy like, since there’s no triggering context, maybe reaching way back into early childhood’s opaque alleys.

Sometimes something sticks because we associate it with an event or person that brought us great happiness or, alas, considerable pain.   Maybe we never forget anything really, the mind simply archiving everything that makes us who we are. While time may soften the edges of past experience, its essence remains

Freud built his formidable psychological schema on memory, which he argued was always latent, and thus influential on what we do and say, want and fear.  His former protégée, Carl Jung, contended memory transcended time and individuals, ultimately taking on evolutionary status as archetype, or primordial pattern, shaping both our thinking and behavior.  According to Jung, the repository of memory is defined best in myth, which reenacts the human repertoire of experience.  Its roman a clef  lies in symbols compressing our individual and collective destinies.

On the literary front, some of our foremost fiction writers like Joyce, Proust and Faulkner have made a legacy of memory in works like Ulysses, Remembrance of Things Past, and The Sound and the Fury.  In poetry, the English poet Wordsworth famously defined poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquillity,” building his poetic artifice on reflecting past experiences.  Perhaps the bottom line modus operandi latent in literary creation is to keep memory, or human experience, alive.

Often memory over time embellishes or distorts as we add or subtract.  It’s a good reason to keep journals. Verbal photos I like to call them.  Poor recall is the nemesis in legal matters when witnesses can’t accurately recall what they saw or heard or when witnesses prove contradictory.

Too often we take our ability to remember for granted, when the truth is it begins to decline as we age and increasingly we can’t find those damned keys, or forget what we came to the store for, or that doctor’s appointment.  Nothing to be worried about, save when forgetfulness takes on habit such as:

1 .    We repeat the same questions.

2.    We struggle for common words.

3.    We find it difficult to follow directions

4.    We lose our way in our neighborhood.

5.    We put things in odd places.

6.    We can’t recall something recently learned.

If I lost my sight or hearing, this would be debilitating and surely grievous, yet I think not equal to the loss of recall, condemned to an eternal present and essentially returning me to an infantile state as in dementia and its acute species, Alzheimer’s, that wipes away everything defining my humanity and lending  my life significance.

I don’t know, nor do any of us, what Fate holds, but in the meantime, I choose not to take this gift of memory for granted but to cherish it by nurturing it through learning new things, exercising regularly and vigorously, and eating nutritious foods.

Doctors who specialize in aging increasingly report that dementia may not necessarily happen if we keep our brains healthy by doing the right things.  Dr.  Majid Fotuhi, Chair of the Department of Neurology at Johns Hopkins, informs us that Alzheimer’s has only a limited genetic factor.  It can be delayed and even prevented with lifestyle changes undertaken in midlife.

I choose to run with that hope,

–rj

%d bloggers like this: