A NEW APPROACH
As we all know, the prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease has increased exponentially: well over 5 million Americans now have dementia, and it is estimated that by 2050 there will be over 13 million cases. This disease, in all its forms, is taking a heavy toll on families and our country in terms of unpaid caregiver hours (18.1 billion1), direct costs (an estimated $236B in 20152), and the anguish experienced by individuals and their families. The predominant belief is that dementia cannot be prevented, slowed, or cured, and the billions spent on medical research has only reinforced that belief.
Within the last 2 years, however, we’ve been given not only hope, but concrete evidence that dementia can be successfully treated, and that full recovery is often possible using a fundamentally different approach.
First Signs of Hope
Sharp Again Naturally’s founders first heard about people who had reversed their dementia and Alzheimer’s diagnoses from documentary filmmakers Patricia Tamowski and Scott Douglas. Tish and Scott interviewed and filmed dementia patients, and their families, doctors, and caregivers. Their film clips provide compelling evidence that there are many causes of dementia that can be reversed using a multi-therapeutic approach.
Inspired by what we learned, a small group officially launched Sharp Again Naturally in 2012. Our mission is to educate the public and the medical community about preventable and reversible causes of memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s Disease and to advocate for new evaluation and treatment protocols as a standard of care for all dementia patients.
There was solid science to back up the individual causes of dementia that we had learned about. What was missing was evidence for the power of the new, comprehensive approach that we were advocating.
A Multi-causal, Multi-therapeutic Approach
We would not know for another two years, however, about the work of Dr. Dale Bredesen at UCLA and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, who at the same time was conducting a small study utilizing a similar multi-causal, multi-therapeutic approach. His groundbreaking results showed a 90% success rate in restoring cognitive function, enabling those who had to quit or cut back on work to return to their jobs.
What Dr. Bredesen’s research made clear is that dementia has many causes, and that treating all of them simultaneously often produces the best results. However, until all these reversible causes are tested for and treated, no one knows if a particular person’s cognitive function can be fully restored or not.
Sharp Again Naturally, working with our Medical and Dental Advisory Board, has identified 10 causes of dementia that can be evaluated and treated, potentially reversing memory loss and restoring full cognitive function.
10 Reversible Causes
1. Nutritional imbalances and deficiencies
2. Toxins in food, water, air, work/home environments
3. Effects of prescription medications
4. Mercury and other heavy metal toxicity
5. Hormonal imbalances (T3 thyroid, HGH, estrogen, testosterone and
6. Inflammation from low-level infections, mold, food allergies, and
7. Inadequate physical activity, mental stimulation, and social interaction
8. Stress, especially from life changes and how we process information
9. Sleep and Breathing Problems
10. Traumatic Brain Injury
To appreciate the science underlying this multi-therapeutic approach, as well as why the medical community is having such a difficult time finding answers, it is helpful to understand the context in which dementia has become so prevalent.
Why Dementia Is Hitting Us Now
Why is the prevalence of cognitive decline expanding and accelerating in older adults in America (and elsewhere)? Why is it also affecting people in their 50s and 60s? Some say it’s because people are living longer, but if dementia is not a natural part of aging—and even the National Institute of Health asserts it is not3—then why should that make a difference? And why are those numbers increasing at such astounding rates?
One main reason is changes taking place for the first time, in both our environment and the way we live. The transformations we have seen in the 150 years from the industrial age to the electronic age would make the world we live in barely recognizable to our ancestors. These changes are impacting our bodies and minds in ways we never could have imagined, and they relate to most of Sharp Again’s 10 causative factors.
What kinds of environmental changes are we talking about? There are several categories, starting with our food supply. The soil of conventionally grown foods is no longer as nutrient-dense as it once was, and the seeds used have been genetically altered to increase yield, withstand weather, kill insects and other disruptors, and facilitate processing. The downside is that these seed alterations have also rendered these foods unlike what we evolved over half a million years to thrive on. Most processed foods today contain non-food substances that our bodies cannot easily recognize or process.
As our diets have changed and we consume more engineered and depleted foods (as well as an alarming amount of sugar per capita), we are seeing a narrowing of facial structure and an increase in breathing issues from asthma to sleep apnea. In children and in adults, the narrowing of the airway continues to reduce oxygen to the brain and impair the brain’s critically important ability to detoxify at night.
Over the past 50 years, chemical toxins have been found increasingly in our food, water, air, and work/home environments (in the form of fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, fluoride, industrial waste, pharmaceuticals, paper and packaging, plastics, heavy metals, and more). The food industry alone uses 12,000 different chemicals as ingredients or for processing.
Chemicals are so pervasive that well over 200 are commonly found in the umbilical cords of newborn babies. A one-time exposure may not cause much damage by itself, but the sheer number of exposures to different chemicals over the course of a lifetime creates a build-up of toxins in the body’s tissues. As this toxic “body burden” accumulates, the body’s sensitive mechanisms (such as the hormones of our endocrine system) start to break down, which distorts and even prevents proper functioning. Mercury, found in our food, air, and so-called “silver” fillings, causes symptoms identical to those that define Alzheimer’s Disease.
Even though the NIH agrees that dementia is not a natural part of aging, it is also true that the longer we live, the longer we are exposed to and accumulate toxins. At the point where one’s body burden is reached and the tissues can no longer absorb and sequester the toxic load, symptoms start to develop—in this case, memory loss and other manifestations of cognitive decline. Symptoms can also develop at younger ages if the level of toxic exposure is high enough.
Although prescription drugs can be life-saving, many prescriptions are written to address symptoms rather than causes of disease. It is not surprising to find our elders taking more than 12 different medications, whether at home or in nursing facilities. The listed interactions and side effects of many medications include confusion, dizziness, memory loss, and disorientation. When the number of medications is reduced to only those that are required for comfort and safety, these symptoms often disappear.
Chemicals and toxic exposure also lead to inflammation in the body, and can reduce our resistance to infection. We have seen a rise in Lyme Disease, mold, MRSA, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, all of which cause inflammation. The rise in food allergies and sensitivities is another manifestation of how chemicals and GMOs have diminished our ability to absorb and process nutrients. Much of this has to do with the chemical and antibiotic assault on the organisms in our gut microbiome, which, we are learning, has an overwhelming impact on brain and bodily function.
In industrialized countries, environmental toxicity is compounded by the advance of technologies for both work and leisure that invite us into physical inactivity, social isolation, and mental numbness. Many of us sit over 14 hours a day, whether watching television, in front a computer, or playing video games. But our bodies evolved to be in motion, and these sedentary activities all diminish vitality and damage our health. Sitting is the new smoking, making us vulnerable to diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and obesity.
The electronic age also brings with it exposure to another form of toxicity, electro-magnetic radiation (EMR’s). These are emitted by our cellphones, cordless phones, computers, electrical wires and cell towers. We have evidence that EMR’s contribute to the development of cancer, but the true extent of the effects are not yet known.
All of the above factors cause great physical stress on the body. Add to that the tsunami of information we are asked to deal with daily, and the overload is enough to cause anxiety, fatigue, and tremendous mental stress, especially when added to responsibilities of home and family. Our stress levels are also high because most people do not have the time or energy to engage in stress-reducing activities like meditation, yoga, and regular workouts, let alone simply enjoying quiet time or catching up on sleep.
Stress also tends to compound the impact of one other cause of dementia, traumatic brain injury (TBI). While TBI may not be a result of environmental changes or lifestyle choices per se, we are increasingly aware that TBIs due to high-contact sports, car accidents, falls, violence, and combat injuries later have resulted in diagnoses of Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.
Where Do We Go From Here?
As our population lives longer, it is estimated that half of our elders over the age of 85 will be afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.4 However, we are also seeing up to 5% of dementia cases (over 250,000) diagnosed before the age of 65.5 These are harrowing statistics.
There is currently no pharmaceutical cure, and the likelihood of a single medicine being developed is remote indeed. The disease is simply too complex for one or even several medications to address all of the causes identified so far.
However, we do know enough to act effectively TODAY. We have knowledge now that can save people’s memories and their lives. But making that approach universally available to the public and the medical community will require us all working together to make this common knowledge and to change the prevailing mindset.
Sharp Again Naturally is passionate about promoting that new approach by educating people about what they can do to protect themselves and their loved ones against the hazards of what is happening in the environment, our food supply, and lifestyles.
To be fully understood and applied, ideas this new require repeated exposure. For this reason, Sharp Again Naturally is offering two types of education programs to help families and practitioners learn more:
Being equipped with such vital information gives people choices, so they can take precautions today to minimize toxic exposure and maintain health in body and mind at every stage of life.
For your convenience, here is a download of the Road Map to Clarity, which summarizes the remedial steps for addressing each reversible cause of dementia.
3 Dr. Dale Bredesen, The Omega Institute. July 2, 2016.