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Alzheimer’s Patient Sees Improvement After Lifestyle Changes

CNN Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta
CNN: Mike Carver got Alzheimer's. His wife enrolled him in a clinical trial by the famous Dr. Ornish. After 40 weeks, all four of Mike's cognitive tests improved. See CNN's interview. Read trial details. (Video+Article)

The Big News

Many experts are calling this time the “most hopeful” era for dementia patients and their loved ones. More and more, people can take action in their everyday lives that could help drive down their own risk of developing the devastating disease. Patients have an increasing number of opportunities to slow it down.

Any of you who have read my columns before have seen the name of Dr. Dean Ornish on more than one occasion.  Dr. Ornish is not afraid to go against the status quo.  He has spent his long, illustrious career in cardiology and medicine in general investigating how to prevent and reverse chronic disease using lifestyle.  Through a study in 1990, he was the first to show that you can reverse heart disease with a whole-food, plant-based diet along with other lifestyle interventions.  Those findings were a great accomplishment and should have been instrumental in curing heart disease.  Unfortunately, mainstream medicine didn’t buy in and they continue with drugs, procedures, and surgeries. The mainstream medicine approach can save lives, but has nothing to do with treating the causation of disease.

Dr. Ornish subsequently has shown the early-stage prostate cancer can be reversed. In addition, we can even reverse aging on a cellular level by reversing the deterioration of telomeres on the DNA strand.  Now, Dr. Dean Ornish and his colleagues have finally finished their trial on reversing early stage Alzheimer’s disease. The results are astounding.

Alzheimer’s has become prominent in society

There are almost 7 million people in the United States and 55 million people worldwide with Alzheimer’s.  These numbers are steadily growing. It is the most dreadful and feared disease.  When you lose your memories, you really lose everything.

Billions of dollars have been spent trying to find a drug that works.  In 20 years, 2 drugs have been approved. Many feel that Aducanumab should never have been approved. It’s effects are negligible and the newer drug, Secukinumab at best slows down the rate of deterioration.  These drugs cost about $26,000 per year for the patient and the side effects include brain bleeding and brain swelling.  We all want a cure, but much more emphasis needs to be put into prevention. 

What we know about prevention

According to Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, neurologists who head the Alzheimer’s research project at Loma Linda University, 90% of the cases of this dreaded disease are preventable.

Proper diet, sleep, and keeping alcohol low in the diet (or eliminating it altogether) will prevent 90% of occurrence of this disease. Multiple studies have shown that high consumption of fruits and vegetables are particularly good, especially green leafy vegetables. A study in 2018 at Rush University showed that eating a large amount of greens was the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age.

In contrast, people whose diets are prominent in meat, chicken, and fish are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s.  The Chicago Study on Aging showed us that saturated fats are particularly bad.

The latest in reversal of Alzheimer’s

Now we know about reversing Alzheimer’s –  not with a drug, but with an intensive lifestyle intervention.

In Ornish’s study, not every patient showed improvement, but most did. In the control group, those not using the lifestyle intervention and undergoing standard care, all showed decline. Among those who did recieve the intervention, cognition improved and amyloid retreated.

The subjects walked 30 minutes every day and did online strength training sessions.  Meditation and yoga practices were introduced. Dr. Ornish asked the participants to get a good night sleep.  He gave them certain supplements and had them eat strict, healthy vegan diet. Overall calories were unrestricted but protein and fat were limited to 18% of the total diet. There was no added sugars, alcohol, or ultra-processed foods allowed.

In an interview with CNN, two participants in the program told of how much better they are doing. Mike Carver told CNN that he is now thinking more clearly and his physical health also improved.  Tammy Maida is now sleeping better and is doing all her regular tasks once again like laundry, cooking, reading, and tracking her finances.  She said, “The cloud of Alzheimer’s slowly started to lift.  Honestly, I am more me than I had been for the years prior to starting Dr. Ornish’s program.”

Take-home messages from the study

This study was limited both in time and in numbers of participants.  It could be that a longer and more comprehensive trial will show even better results.  Minimally, it seems we can slow this disease down substantially, maximally, we can reverse it to some extent and stop it in it’s tracks. 

What bothers me? Alzheimer’s drugs, that don’t really do anything at all to reverse or stop the disease, come out and make a splash all over the newspapers, websites, television, and radio.  Yet here we have something that seems to work better than the drugs, yet only received minimal mention!

It’s worth the change and effort

Lifestyle medicine is amazing.  It prevents and has reversed many chronic conditions – even auto-immune conditions.  There is no question that for reversal, whether heart disease or Alzheimer’s, there needs to be strict adherence, but isn’t it worth it?

One of the people who dropped out of the Ornish Study just couldn’t do it.  She needed to stop at McDonalds on the way home from her daily walks—every day!  This has me scratching my head. Pharmaceuticals and surgeries have their place.  But when they have been proven ineffective, and lifestyle has shown to be effective, what’s holding us back?

Imagine a world where heart disease, diabetes, many of the cancers and dementia are rare occurrences.   I don’t see that as a pipe dream.  I see it as a very attainable goal. We must change the prejudices by mainstream medicine against lifestyle intervention.  When we can do that, we will all “add hours to our day, days to our year and years to our life.”

Article Author: Alan Freishtat, Personal Training and Wellness Coaching

  • The writer is a health and wellness coach and personal trainer with more than 25 years of professional experience. He is director of The Wellness Clinic and can be reached at alan@alanfitness.com.

Video:

  • CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Gupta follows Alzheimer's patients through their courses of treatment.
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P. Berger

This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. it has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. it has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor

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This site was inspired by my Mom’s autoimmune dementia.

It is a place where we separate out the wheat from the chafe, the important articles & videos from each week’s river of news. Google gets a new post on Alzheimer’s or dementia every 7 minutes. That can overwhelm anyone looking for help. This site filters out, focuses on and offers only the best information. It has helped hundreds of thousands of people since it debuted in 2007. Thanks to our many subscribers for your supportive feedback.

The site is dedicated to all those preserving the dignity of the community of people living with dementia.

Peter Berger, Editor

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