Mental Acuity and Ageing
By: Dr. Ron T. Dummar DC, MAOM
As a young man I remember watching as my grandmother faded into the foggy grasp of an apparent disorienting disease. I remember her forgetting that we’d had a recent conversation, mis-storing common items in the kitchen, and even forgetting how to play games she had taught us time and time again. I later learned her disoriented state was the result of beta amyloid sheets in her brain, leading to a condition called Alzheimer’s Disease(AD).
AD has become known as the most common cause of mental decline. More and more Americans are ageing without the intellectual capacity they are used to. Unless a cure or some form of prevention is found, the Alzheimer’s Association has estimated 22 million persons worldwide will find themselves with the disease by the year 2025.
My young mind longed for the grandmother that would be concerned how my day was, and would remember; the grandmother that would laugh and play, and even sometimes wrestle with me; the grandmother that knew me. I wished I could help her through this frustrating and bewildering time. As a result, throughout my studies and clinical experience, I have been keenly interested in low side effect advancements that show promise in reducing the damaging progression of AD. While an integrated approach is necessary in treating AD, three foundational recommendations will provide the power needed to prevent, slow and in some instances reverse the effects of AD.
First, it is important to realize the brain is largely made up of fat and cholesterol. As a result it is important to supply the brain regularly with appropriate fats, and be cautious with cholesterol lowering substances. A quick list of appropriate fat containing foods in preferential order is: olives, avocados, almond, apricot, canola. If purchasing the oil itself, go for the cold pressed option to avoid additional tampering from heat. Additional foods providing beneficial fats include walnuts, flax seed, and black current.
Second, reduce free-radicals in the body. Free radicals lead to oxidation. Oxidation is the process that leads to rust in the world around us. Oxidation in the body can take a damaging toll and lead to many diseases including AD. Reducing the damage of free-radicals can be achieved with a diet rich in dark greens, fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as supporting the production of the anti-oxidant glutathione. Production of glutathione is supported by a ready supply of N-Acetyl-cysteine, a necessary building block for glutathione.
Third, reduce stress and stimulate neurology. Reducing stress can be achieved through exercise and meditation. Thankfully research is demonstrating promising results with another form of prevention and treatment that comes with virtually no side effects. This unique approach was shown to increase a patient’s verbal and motor skills and improve mood and cognitive function. This treatment is acupuncture, and its benefits continue to impress researchers.
Recently a common acupuncture point used to reduce stress and anxiety has been shown to improve memory and increase reactivity of the long-term memory center of the brain (hippocampus) following chronic mild stress-induced memory loss. This may play a role beyond stress-induced memory loss because in Alzheimer's the hippocampus is one of the first regions of the brain to suffer damage.
Additionally, those beta amyloid sheets that contribute to AD, the cause of my grandmother’s mental decline, can be disintegrated through Electro-Acupuncture. That’s right! Electro-Acupuncture has been shown useful in disintegrating those sheets, and is considered by researchers an additional effective approach to modify the course of AD without the risk of side effects.
I know, first hand, the looming frustration and strain placed on caring relationships by this nearly epidemic disease process. It is my greatest desire that anyone suffering with or seeking to prevent it be afforded the very best minimal side effect care available. Implementation of the former three recommendations will support the proper development and healthy ageing of the brain.
Emerson Lombardo N, et al. Acupuncture to treat anxiety and depression in Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia: a pilot feasibility and effectiveness trial. Presented at the World Alzheimer's Conference, Washington, D.C., July 9-18, 2000.
Kao H, et al. Acupuncture enhancement in clinical symptoms and cognitive-motor abilities of the Alzheimer's disease patients. Presented at the World Alzheimer's Conference, Washington, D.C., July 9-18, 2000.
Narahari Joshi et al. Electroacupuncture Effects on the Disintegration of Beta Amyloid Sheets: Its Application to Alzheimer’s Disease