Six non-drug strategies to help deal with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a long-lived ordeal for the elderly of the twenty-first century.
By 2050, the incidence of Alzheimer’s is expected to reach 135 million worldwide, from only about 24 million today.
What is even more alarming is the lack of treatment options available. Other than the controversial recent FDA approval of aducanumab, there is no pharmaceutical treatment in existence that can actually reverse or address the progression of the disease.
The only other 5 prescription medications available are there to help manage symptoms and try to slow down the disease- not to mention that they are not equally effective on all patients and tend to be accompanied by adverse health effects like dizziness, behaviour changes, falls, etc.
However, even before Alzheimer’s drugs, there have been many attempts at regulating the disease through alternative medicine. However, some of these methods require significantly more research to prove any effectiveness, and many others have been refuted altogether. While melatonin and coconut oil may or may not help with treating AD, there are several non-drug options that DO show evidence of preventing, slowing and even treating risk factors like inflammation, neurodegeneration, and cardiovascular health.
Light and Sound Therapy
At the forefront of innovation for AD treatment is GammaSense therapy. It is a digital treatment using light and sound to stimulate electrical brain frequencies. Believe it or not, Cognito Therapeutics has been granted a Breakthrough Design Designation by the FDA for showing this therapy might improve memory and cognition with one-hour daily sessions.
Using strobe-like light and specific tones at a frequency of about 40hz, the therapy calibrates with users’ EEG (Electroencephalography) readings to boost gamma waves in the brain and boost brain function, activate the immune system and slow down neurodegeneration.
Take Your Vitamins
ABCDE- This is not just a recitation of the Alphabet, but a cocktail of nutrients that has shown positive effects on cognition and reduced the risk of dementia.
Vitamin A and C are powerful antioxidants essential for memory and learning. Vitamin A especially tends to decrease with age and is known to be low in AD patients.
Vitamin B (B6, B9, B12) lowers homocysteine levels, which would otherwise increase the risk for dementia, heart disease and stroke.
Vitamin D is correlated with enhanced cognitive performance, and vitamin E is a potent anti-inflammatory agent also showcasing positive results in cognition.
More research is undoubtedly needed to deem any vitamin or mix a proven therapy, but there is evidence of improved outcomes in AD patients who are rich in vitamins A to E.
The Right Diet
Diet is important for biomarkers of many diseases and Alzheimer’s is no exception. There seems to be a consensus that a Mediterranean-style diet is best for optimal cognitive health. This includes fish, berries, whole grains, and healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and nuts.
This study examined data from over 7500 participants and concluded that fish and vegetable intake were incredibly important dietary factors in lowering the risk of cognitive impairment long term. Theories about why omega-3s might reduce dementia risk include their benefit for blood vessels and cardiovascular health; their anti-inflammatory effects; and their protection of nerve cell membranes.
Imagine, if everyone just ate healthily and exercised- what a healthy population that would be. Sadly, it takes the fear of disease and ageing to motivate many older adults to pursue an active lifestyle.
Whatever the incentive, people over the age of 60 who take part in regular aerobic exercise may have enhanced production of grey and white brain matter and protected neuronal plasticity because of: the increased blood flow to the brain, improved neurogenesis, and reduced amyloid plaque accumulation(commonly seen in the brains of elders with AD).
Music has had extensive use as ‘therapy’, but only in recent years has it been adopted by popular medicine for patients of all ages.
For individuals affected by dementia, music helps maintain mental and emotional health. This meta-analysis concluded that intervention with music can improve cognitive function and quality of life, which is necessary to avoid depression or other undesired behaviour changes that come along with AD.
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word for the science of life and wellbeing. It is an old system of holistic approaches from India that focuses on maintaining equilibrium among the five elements: air, fire, water, air and earth.
Mostly, Ayurvedic solutions have minimal side effects and have been very well-studied. For cognitive function and enhanced brain performance, natural ingredients like Bacopa monnieri, turmeric, ginkgo, cinnamon, ginseng and many other plant extracts have shown promising results via their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties boosting brain function.
There is a lot more research necessary both for drug and non-drug therapies from the lens of AD. With alternative medicine rising in popularity, it is worth noting that many cultures have been using their own brain-boosting remedies long before big pharma. Now, with technological advances, there is more variety in non-drug therapies for dealing with a disease as complex as Alzheimer’s (meditation, behavioural therapy, etc). While none of them is a perfect solution, non-drug solutions are wonderful compliments to traditional medicine, delivering significant benefits with little to no risks, costs or side effects.
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