23 Apr Lifestyle Changes Can Reverse Alzheimer’s
Last summer, a research group from UCLA published the results of a new approach in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Although the size of the study was small, every participant demonstrated such marked improvement that almost all were found to be in the normal range on testing for memory and cognition by the study’s end.
Functionally, this amounts to a cure for Alzheimer’s.
These are important findings, not only because Alzheimer’s disease is projected to become ever more common as the population ages, but because current treatment options offer minimal improvement at best.
The results from UCLA aren’t due to an incredible new drug or medical breakthrough; instead, researchers examined a variety of different lifestyle modifications that affect common aspects of Alzheimer’s, such as inflammation and insulin resistance. Participants were counselled to change their diet (eat a lot more veggies), exercise, develop techniques for stress management, and improve their sleep, among other interventions. The most common “side effect” was weight loss.
Researchers have spent billions of dollars in an effort to understand the molecular basis of Alzheimer’s in the hope that it will lead to a cure, or at least to more effective therapies. And although knowledge of the disease has greatly expanded, all that money has not resulted in many successful treatments.
The study is notable not only for its remarkable outcomes, but also in its approach. It’s a fresh way of thinking about the treatment of a complex, chronic disease.
The scientists chose to set aside the microscopes and instead focused on ordinary behaviors.
The method isn’t entirely novel. Researchers have already shown that comprehensive lifestyle interventions can significantly improve outcomes in cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension. But it’s difficult for these approaches to gain traction for two reasons.
First, testing how lifestyle changes can impact chronic illnesses are way more complex than simply taking a pill at bedtime. Patients need ongoing education, counselling and support to effect meaningful change.
Second, the pharmaceutical mode of treatment is deeply embedded within our current medical system. Insurance companies are set up to pay for medication, not lifestyle change; and physicians are taught pharmacology, not nutrition.
Despite these difficulties, it’s time to start taking these approaches much more seriously. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple over the next three decades, to nearly 14 million in the United States alone. Diabetes and other chronic diseases are expected to follow a similar trajectory. Trying to confront this epidemic with medication alone will raise a new host of problems, from prohibitive cost to adverse effects, without addressing any underlying cause.
We know that comprehensive lifestyle modification can work for many chronic diseases — in some cases, just as good as taking medication. It deserves more than passing mention at the end of an annual check-up — it’s time to make it a cornerstone in the treatment not only of Alzheimer’s disease, but of all chronic disease.
The above article is courtesy of My EZ Health Guide and is intended for informational purposes only.