Cognitive Decline

by Dr. Rene Jeannes

The diagnosis of cognitive decline is a scary moment none of us wish to be presented with. The reality of it is, that cognitive decline may start as early as in one’s 20’s. It is thought to be untreatable, but, thanks to genetic testing, functional testing and lifestyle management, it can be largely preventable, and if diagnosed early enough, it may be treated or even reversed.

Dr. Dale Bredesen, the author of “The End of Alzheimer’s”, has successfully reversed over 100 cases of Alzheimer’s. Here are a few ideas from his book, that I use in my practice, in the prevention and treatment of cognitive decline.

  1. Prevent and reduce inflammation

Much of what we eat causes inflammation in our bodies. This includes sugar, fried foods, gluten, baked goods, alcohol, dairy, and foods which we are sensitive to as individuals. It is essential to keep blood sugar levels balanced and avoid insulin spikes. Infections can also cause inflammation (viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites). A balanced microbiome and a healthy gut is key. Stress, lack of sleep and under and over- exercising cause inflammation.

What you can do about it:
Eat an anti- inflammatory diet that keeps blood sugar balanced. Take anti-inflammatory supplements such as bio- curcumin and omega 3. Exercise daily for 40 minutes, manage stress and get enough sleep. Test for infections (start with a good stool test which would test for bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites) every 2 years and go for a routine blood test once a year. Be sure to test ultrasensitive CRP, which is an inflammatory marker. Test your glucose and insulin levels.

  1. Hormonal and nutritional imbalances

Hormones and nutrition play a huge role in protecting our brains and maintaining neural communication. As we age, our estrodiol, progesterone and testosterone decrease. These can be maintained by herbal or nutritional supplements or bio- identical hormones. It is essential to ensure adequate levels of folate, (not folic acid) B12 and vitamin D3. These all boost brain- derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) which strengthen our neural synapses. Ensure you know your thyroid status.

What you can do about it:
Be intellectually stimulated throughout life in order to maintain communication in your brain. Detoxify. Exercise. Sleep. Manage stress.  Balance hormones and ensure adequate intake of the correct nutrients. It is a good idea to test hormones by doing a DUTCH test (dry urinary hormone test which includes your adrenal hormones), and blood tests for nutritional deficiencies. Be sure to test vitamin D3, Folate, B12, RBC magnesium, homocysteine. Test your thyroid hormones.

  1. Eliminate toxins

The accumulation of toxins such as chemicals, heavy metals and moulds hugely affect our brain.

What you can do about it:
Identify your toxic burden by doing a urinary toxic metals test, a mould test (blood test), reduce your exposure to chemical body products and household cleaners (including chemical washing powders). Eat foods that detoxify eg, cruciferous and allium vegetables, take a sauna, exercise daily, and take glutathione as a supplement.

  1. Know your genetic risk

It is possible to do a genetic test to determine whether you have a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s.

What you can do about it:
If you do have the genetic SNP, you know you will need to follow the guidelines above very carefully in order to prevent cognitive decline. It would be important to find a skilled practitioner to guide you through this process. The good news is, there is a lot one can do to prevent cognitive decline. Do not ignore the little changes in your memory that seem to be getting worse. The sooner you act, the better.