We are in the midst of an epidemic — an insidious and deadly disease that carelessly destroys the brains of its victims.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia affects more than 5 million Americans and is currently the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. One in three seniors will die from dementia. Alzheimer’s and other dementias are on track to affect 50 million Americans by 2050.
Most alarmingly, there is no effective treatment to date. Of the more than 200 clinical trials of dementia medications in the past decades, only a few have been approved for use. None of these medications are particularly effective. In fact, most people who take them don’t experience any meaningful benefit, and more than half suffer from side effects, ranging from nausea, diarrhea, muscle cramps and reduced appetite to slowed heart rate and internal bleeding. To make matters worse, side effects can include many of the symptoms these medications are prescribed to treat — confusion, fatigue, lightheadedness, insomnia, headache and tremors.
With all this bad news about dementia, is there any hope for a disease that’s been labeled as “incurable?” The functional medicine community believes there is significant hope, and has the scientific evidence to prove it. One example getting a lot of attention lately is Dr. Dale Bredesen, internationally-recognized expert on the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, best-selling author of “The End of Alzheimer’s” and developer of The Bredesen Protocol for Cognitive Decline.
Dr. Bredesen and his colleagues at UCLA are at the forefront of research for comprehensive treatment programs, showing great promise in treating and actually reversing cognitive decline. Bredesen’s research uses the functional medicine approach, a twenty-first century method for addressing the complexities of the disease process.
While conventional medicine focuses mostly on treating symptoms, functional medicine seeks to uncover and treat the cause of symptoms through a comprehensive, personalized evaluation process. We address the three major components affecting health — mind, body and spirit — through a specific process and advanced diagnostics. Volumes of research prove the link between these “pillars of health” and disease. Functional medicine practitioners then use a personalized approach to treatment that may include dietary changes, lifestyle modifications, detoxification and nutraceuticals. Patients feel better, and symptoms are generally improved and often eliminated.
Dr. Bredesen’s 30 years of research on neurodegenerative disease has resulted in the development of The Bredesen Protocol, a functional medicine-based program for evaluation and treatment of cognitive decline. He and his colleagues have treated over 2,000 patients to date with very good results. So, what is involved with The Bredesen Protocol, and why is this method showing great promise in treating cognitive decline?
The answer is best explained by first looking at how, in simple terms, standard medicine has viewed dementia. It is seen as a brain disease, with treatments focused on affecting the proteins and plaques often seen on brain images of affected patients. Functional medicine, conversely, views dementia as a symptom of a much larger disease process, usually with multiple causes. In fact, The Bredesen Protocol classifies dementia into subtypes based upon an extensive evaluation of the patient. Targeted interventions are used to address deficiencies and problem areas uncovered in the evaluation process. Treatments are complex and involve many areas of function, which likely explains The Bredesen Protocol’s success versus the single therapies employed in standard practice. As with any disease, early intervention is key to successful treatment.
What can you do to protect yourself? As a Bredesen Protocol-certified practitioner, I stress that my patients start now with making the changes necessary to prevent this horrible disease. We know that dementia-related changes are occurring in the brain for a decade or more before any symptoms occur. Long-term deficiencies, poor dietary and lifestyle choices, environmental and heavy metal toxins and genetic risk all play a role in the development of dementia. Research shows us that reducing risk and reversing symptoms of cognitive decline are most effective early in the process, but positive changes can be made regardless of where one is in the disease process. I urge you to read about The Bredesen Protocol, consider a functional medicine approach to health and make personal changes now to prevent cognitive decline. If you are experiencing cognitive symptoms, don’t wait to be evaluated. Together we can beat this disease!
Lynn Kettell-Slifer is a family nurse practitioner trained in functional medicine through The Institute for Functional Medicine. She is certified in the Bredesen Protocol for Cognitive Decline. Her practice, Health Partners LLC, is located in Ponte Vedra Beach. Visit www.HealthPartnersLLC.net for more information.