Alzheimer's Disease is a degenerative disease of the brain that is currently thought to affect nearly 44 million people in the world. In the United States alone, over 5 million people suffer the illness. It is estimated that, at current rates, that number will grow to more than 17 million by 2050. It is an expensive illness. The Alzheimer's Association predicts that the disease will cost our country 236 billion dollars in 2016. However, the human cost of the illness is incalculable. Despite the efforts of many, there has been no cure for the disease. At present, no one medication works to either prevent it or substantially alter its course.
Many authors, including myself, have concluded that Alzheimer's Disease is not a certainty in aging individuals. Indeed, even in those having family members with Alzheimer's Disease, that is, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, the dreaded illness is not inevitable. We have advised that steps can be taken to help most individuals avoid Alzheimer's Disease.
In the September 27, 2014 issue of the journal, Aging, Dr. Dale Bredesen described the MEND method to treat and even reverse symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease. The acronym, MEND, stands for Metabolic Enhancement for Neurodegeneration, and the treatment method was been show to substantially improve cognitive function within 3 to 6 months in individuals with mild cognitive impairment or the more severe Alzheimer's Disease. The MEND protocol involves personally tailored treatments to address specific problems identified in individuals after evaluation in the clinic and through laboratory studies. In general, the steps taken are:
1. Treating Diabetes, and reducing blood sugar and insulin requirements.
2. Reducing stress.
3. Improving sleep.
4. Increasing intellectual stimulation.
5. Increasing physical exercise.
6. Reducing inflammation.
7. Starting vitamin supplementation, especially B12 and vitamin D.
8. Optimizing hormone levels, e.g. thyroid hormone, testosterone, estrogen, and cortisol.
9. Improving bowel health.
10. Giving antioxidants.
11. Treating sleep apnea.
12. Starting supplementation to optimize nerve growth factors and mitochondrial function.
13, Optimizing the synthesis of acetylcholine.
14. Herbs to reduce amyloid build-up.
By and large, the above measures are most of the same issues and deficits many of us have previously pointed out, but Bredesen has done so with scientific rigor and laser-like focus. It is impressive work.
Dr. Bredesen has now published a follow up study to his 2014 work, in which he further documents sustained improvements using the MEND method. The results continue to be mind-blowing!
All of Bredesen's patients showed marked improvement in subjective sense of cognitive function as well as in objective neuropsychological tests of cognitive performance. Some individuals with significant cognitive deficits returned to work. In one case, brain scans showed increase in size of the hippocampus, the area of brain responsible for memory. It should be noted that the patients described by Dr. Bredesen were challenging. A number of the subjects were known to possess the ApoE4 alleles that have been thought to dramatically increase the risk of Alzheimer's. At least one was under 60 years of age, and thus likely to be exhibiting so-called early onset Alzheimer's Disease, which is generally more rapid in progression and more devastating in effect. Still, Dr. Bredesen noted in his discussion that the degree and duration of improvement seen in his group of patients was unprecedented.
Whereas I and others have argued that Alzheimer's can in most cases be avoided, Dr. Bredesen has gone a step further. He has shown that by focusing on diet, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, and intellectual stimulation, combined with competent medical management of chronic degenerative illnesses, the symptoms of Alzheimer's cannot only be prevented but actually reversed. Bredesen's research needs to be pursued to fully verify its benefits. But we must do it without delay.