A momentary memory lapse that eventually turns to memory loss…we all hope it doesn’t happen to us or someone we love. Exciting new research coming out of Dr. Bredesen’s work at the Buck Institute has shown that we are making some inroads in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

Cognitive decline is a top health concern for adults as they age. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of age-related cognitive decline. It is a disease that will affect at least one in six individuals in their lifetime. Currently, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that there are five million Americans with this illness, and that number is projected to triple by the year 2050. Its economic impact on the U.S. is staggering, with more than a $200 billion per year price tag on direct-care costs and an even larger economic impact on families that care for these individuals. These numbers, however, do not touch on the devastating social and emotional impact Alzheimer’s has on the caretakers and extended family members of patients with this disease.

Alzheimer’s has been a death sentence for those who have been given this diagnosis. Until Dr. Bredesen’s research, we have not had an effective treatment that changed the course of this fatal disease. Dr. Bredesen’s work has shown that rather than addressing this disease with a single “silver bullet” approach like many of the current Alzheimer’s drugs on the market.

Instead taking a functional medicine systems biology view, it is possible to reverse this disease for individuals who are in the early stages of this illness. His model of this disease shows that Alzheimer’s is a result of multiple “hits” to our brain that come from such areas as poor diet, nutritional and hormonal deficiencies, chronic inflammation and toxic exposure combined with genetic susceptibilities.

With the underlying causes to Alzheimer’s disease having such a broad range, he postulates that it is not possible to treat this disease with a single modality. Dr. Bredesen’s research has shown that by treating patients with a multi-tiered program that addresses such factors as lifestyle, hormone balance, chronic inflammation and infections, toxic burden and digestive health it is possible to not only prevent the progression of this devastating disease but to actually reverse cognitive decline.

So remember that when you are making lifestyle choices to benefit your brain.

Dr. Heidi Rula is a concierge family medicine physician practicing integrative and functional medicine at Lifescape Premier in Scottsdale.   She completed her medical degree at the University of Arizona and her residency in family medicine at Banner Good Samaritan in Phoenix, AZ.  After completing her fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona under the direction of Dr. Andrew Weil she went on to receive extensive training in functional medicine.