Dementia is a chronic brain disease that affects memory, thinking, and social ability. Alzheimer’s, the most common type of dementia, accounts for 60 to 80% of dementia cases. These devastating diseases have quickly become an epidemic, with over 5.7 million adults suffering from them. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in America. Eventually, an individual suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s cannot take care of themselves. However, if caught in the early stages, therapeutic interventions can prevent and possibly improve these diseases.
I understand the destructive effects of these chronic diseases of the brain. At the age of ninety, my mother suffers from dementia. She had a stroke five years ago and the effects of it were irreversible. My father-in-law died of Alzheimer’s at age eighty-six; he was genetically predisposed to this condition. However, with the implementation of some of these modalities, the disease was held off until his mid-eighties.
Top Ten Therapeutic Interventions
Scientific studies found the following interventions improved the effects of these brain diseases when they were implemented early in the disease process.
- Consume a low-glycemic, low-grain, anti-inflammatory diet.
- Do not eat anything three hours before going to bed and fast for 12 hours each night (from dinner until breakfast). For example, if you eat dinner at 7 p.m. and go to bed at 10 p.m., you should not eat a snack after dinner. These interventions reduce insulin levels.
- Reduce stress by performing yoga, meditation, or listening to music.
- Sleep eight hours each night. If you have insomnia and are not able to sleep for eight hours, you can take a supplement such as melatonin 0.5 mg before bed or tryptophan 500 mg three times a week.
- Exercise for 30-60 minutes four to six times per week. This fundamental component improves brain health.
- Optimize dental hygiene by using an electric toothbrush and electric water flosser (Waterpik) and semiannual dental cleanings. You want to prevent gingivitis and a buildup of bacteria in the gums.
- Obtain optimal gastrointestinal health through taking prebiotics and probiotics. Dr. Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, recommends a probiotic that contains at least ten billion active cultures from at least ten different strains of beneficial bacteria.
- Take a B-complex supplement to maintain adequate levels of B vitamins. Ask your physician to order a blood test to check your B vitamin and homocysteine levels:
- Take vitamin B12 and folate supplements if your homocysteine level is less than 6. If your B12 level is less than 500, then supplement with B12 1mg/day
- May need to take a Folate supplement of up to 0.8 mg/day and vitamin B6 supplement 20-50 mg/day. Vitamin B5 helps increase focus
Your doctor should be able to prescribe the appropriate level of each B vitamin based upon your laboratory results. If B12 is low, your doctor may even recommend a series of weekly vitamin B12 injections.
- Check your vitamin D level with the lab test—25OH-D3. If it is lower than 50ng/ml, you should take vitamin D3 2000-5000 IU/day. Again, your doctor can recommend an appropriate dosage. My mother was prescribed a monthly mega dose vitamin D supplement and weekly B12 shots.
- Diagnose and treat sleep apnea to ensure nocturnal oxygenation.
In addition to these ten interventions, ask your physician to check your fasting insulin level. If it is above normal, you may be developing insulin resistance, a contributing factor to dementia. High blood-sugar levels, from consuming too much sugar and processed food, leads to type 2 diabetes and dementia. Both of these conditions are on the rise. Intervention #1, the low-carbohydrate diet, is essential for optimal brain health.
Dementia destroys the individual’s memory, thinking skills, and ability to carry out basic functions. It is heartbreaking when your own parent doesn’t recognize you. The expense and emotional toll of taking care of a loved one with one of these diseases is overwhelming.
Take the initiative early and implement these ten simple interventions to decrease your chance of developing dementia. If you have a loved one in the early stage of one of these diseases, change their diet and implement these suggestions to delay the effects of the disease process for as long as possible.
Dale E. Bredesen Reversal of Cognitive Decline: A Novel Therapeutic Program. Aging. 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4221920/