It’s been called the 36-hour day and for good reason. Although the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters that care for the victims of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) don’t really have an extra 12 hours a day of work, for many, it understandably seems that way.
Addressing the daily needs of dementia patients can be a challenging and frustrating experience for even the most intrepid of caretakers. Short term memory lapses require lots of repetition, not to mention the patience of “Job”. Normal bathing, dressing and bathroom activities that most of us take for granted can be particularly tumultuous and communication challenges can make everything more difficult. Sometimes scary, violent outbursts can spontaneously occur and keeping the wandering-prone patient in one safe place may be downright impossible. Ultimately it may become dangerous to leave him or her alone, even for just a couple of minutes. The disease damages senses, balance and judgment; it’s not unusual for dementia patients to start fires or overdose on medications. Aggression and paranoia can make them a danger to themselves and the people around them.
There are 5 million Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the sixth leading cause of death. For many it’s a progressive condition and rates are increasing dramatically. A World Health Organization paper called “Dementia: a public health priority” states that this number will double by 2030 and more than triple by 2050.
Yet, lately there’s been reason for optimism. A team led by researchers at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory reported, in the May 7, 2009 issue of Nature, that deactivating a gene can reverse the effects of Alzheimer's and boost cognitive function in mice allowing them to regain long-term memories and the ability to learn.
More recently, in a small study conducted at UCLA in 2014, nine out of ten patients in various stages of dementia, said their symptoms were reversed after they participated in a rigorous nutritional and dietary program that included optimizing gut health, strategic fasting, normalizing blood sugar and insulin, and using Vitamin D and EFAs to support cognition.
As it turns out, despite years of medical dogma to the contrary, nerve cells actually do regenerate given the appropriate nutritional environment. Dr. Dennis Steindler of the University of Florida has shown that stem cells in the brain can give rise to new neurons. According to Dr. Steindler “By changing diet and nutrition, patients may be able to limit inflammation of brain tissue and prevent or even reverse these degenerative diseases, by giving neural stem cells the ability to heal the damage”
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