Life is sweet at home

Healthy Lifestyle Regimen Helps Dementia Patients

The non-drug treatment helped dementia patients to return to work.

The non-drug treatment helped dementia patients to return to work.

Here at Andelcare many of our caregivers are very experienced and skilled working with individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Beyond providing exceptional care for these folks, they help families know they are providing the very best care for their loved ones.

As a family caregiver, founder of a home health agency and professional care manager, I know how difficult it is to watch a family member begin to lose their memory, can’t remember names of children and sink deeper into a fog of confusion and agitation.

Alzheimers reversal on the horizon

Fortunately, the same prescription for continuing mental and physical health well into old age, may have the ability to reverse the symptoms of dementias.

According to an ABC7 news story by Denise Dador, researchers at UCLA have observed reversal of symptoms using non-drug treatment. They used a procedure on a small group of ten memory-loss patients, some with brain-scan-confirmed patterns of Alzheimer’s.

Lifestyle change affects dementia

Yoga and meditation were part of the treatment.

Yoga and meditation were part of the treatment.

The study participants made dramatic lifestyle changes. They avoided simple carbohydrates, gluten and processed foods. They increased their fish intake, took yoga and meditated. They were instructed to take melatonin, get adequate sleep, incorporate vitamin B-12, vitamin D-3 and fish oil.

Within six months, nine patients saw a noticeable improvement in memory. One patient, who was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, did not show improvement.

UCLA researchers say the findings suggest at least early on, changing a person’s metabolic processes can bring back memory and cognitive function.

Former dementia patients returned to work

As an epilogue to the study, six of the patients in the study, who had to discontinue working, were all able to return to their jobs. Study authors say some patients were followed up to two and a half years and the memory improvements remained.

Plans are underway to do larger studies on this therapeutic program.

Digging Deeper into the Study Protocol

Needless to say, I am so profoundly moved and intrigued by the ramifications of this study that I have read the report on the research. Not only am I thrilled to hear the regimen reversed the memory loss, I feel it may tell us what we need to be doing to prevent dementia.

Subject Case Study #1 was a 67-year-old woman had been noticing the decline of her memory and whose mother experienced dementia in her early 60s and died in a nursing home at age 80. At the time of the study the subject couldn’t remember the names of her pets and was about to quit her job working with statistics. On the verge of committing suicide because her memory loss precluded her buying long-term memory insurance, the woman learned about the protocol through a friend.

Here is the summary: She was able to adhere to some but not all of the protocol components. Nonetheless, after three months she noted that all of her symptoms had abated: she was able to navigate without problems, remember telephone numbers without difficulty, prepare reports and do all of her work without difficulty, read and retain information, and, overall, she became asymptomatic.

She noted that her memory was now better than it had been in many years. On one occasion, she developed an acute viral illness, discontinued the program, and noticed a decline, which reversed when she reinstated the program. Two and one-half years later, now age 70, she remains asymptomatic and continues to work full-time.

What Changes Did She Make?

The patient began on some but not all of the system:

Patients exercised for at least 30 minutes 4 to 6 days a week.

Patients exercised for at least 30 minutes 4 to 6 days a week.

(1) she eliminated all simple carbohydrates, leading to a weight loss of 20 pounds;
(2) she eliminated gluten and processed food from her diet, and increased vegetables, fruits, and non-farmed fish;
(3) in order to reduce stress, she began yoga, and ultimately became a yoga instructor;
(4) as a second measure to reduce the stress of her job, she began to meditate for 20 minutes twice per day;
(5) she took melatonin 0.5mg po qhs;
(6) she increased her sleep from 4-5 hours per night to 7-8 hours per night;
(7) she took methylcobalamin 1mg each day;
(8) she took vitamin D3 2000IU each day;
(9) she took fish oil 2000mg each day;
(10) she took CoQ10 200mg each day;
(11) she optimized her oral hygiene using an electric flosser and electric toothbrush;
(12) following discussion with her primary care provider, she reinstated HRT (hormone replacement therapy) that had been discontinued following the WHI report in 2002;
(13) she fasted for a minimum of 12 hours between dinner and breakfast, and for a minimum of three hours between dinner and bedtime; (14) she exercised for a minimum of 30 minutes, 4-6 days per week.

System Sounds Like the Paleo Diet

The Paleo Diet says no sugar or gluten.

The Paleo Diet says no sugar or gluten.

The lifestyle changes Case #1 – Case #3 described in the report remind me a great deal of the so-called “Paleo Diet.”

Named after what scientists and nutritionists think Paleolithic man ate, the Paleo Diet is simple: Eat food – meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds, some starch, some fruit, no sugar. The premise is that this is what our bodies were designed to eat and that eating this diet serves as a foundation of good health.

In “Perfecting Paleo,” author Ashley Tudor suggests we can personalize our own Paleo diet to meet our own body’s needs. She builds her argument on the four pillars of health: food, hormones, inflammation and activity.

Food – Activity: Eating the right foods makes you energetic and compels you to be active.
Food-Hormones: Eating large amounts of carbs triggers the release of the hormone insulin, which shuttles extra energy into fat.
Food-Inflammation: Eating the wrong foods wreaks havoc on the gut & immune system.

For a more complete discussion of the various interactions of the four pillars, consider looking at this book. As for me, my take away from the research, case studies and the Paleo diet connection are several:

* I need to consider cutting out sugar and white flour (gluten) from my diet.

* I need to eat more wild fish and get a good night’s sleep.

I already exercise and eat lots of veggies, nuts and seeds and I try to meditate and occasionally practice yoga. But I could improve on all these things.

What do you think about this research?