Something to keep in mind

The baby boomers will face many challenges in the coming years. One of the greatest challenges they will face is the growing epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, U.S. researchers predict that Alzheimer’s rates in this country will triple by 2050.  

There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. And there’s very little understanding about how to prevent it. At least among doctors.

Sadly, far too many doctors dole out ineffective drugs–fraught with side effects–to stave off the disease’s progression. Or, worse yet, they stay in denial about prevention. They believe there’s nothing they can do to help protect their patients.

This reminds me of when I visited the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum about 20 years ago. At the time, I was working on a legislative proposal regarding Presidential disability.

The Director pleasantly greeted me upon my arrival. He was “on leave” at the time from a prominent Madison Avenue PR agency. We talked about whether or not President Reagan showed any early signs of Alzheimer’s while still in office.

The Director quickly informed me there was no “evidence” of this. As proof, he cited a media search of news articles. Turns out, when they searched news articles published during President Reagan’s time in office, the word “dementia” wasn’t printed within 40 words of the President’s name.

This was all the “proof” they had. Or need, apparently. Remember, in the media-PR world, it isn’t real if it’s not in print.  

I am not saying there is evidence of President Reagan’s sad affliction while he was in office. But the Reagan Library had a curious way of ruling it out.

This reminds me of something once said about a scholar at Oxford University: “My name is Benjamin Jowett, the Dean of Balliol College. If there’s anything known, I know it.  And what I don’t know isn’t knowledge.” 

There is a lot of denial when it comes to Alzheimer’s disease.

I think medical historians should pay more attention to the gunshot wound the President suffered in 1981. Following the assassination attempt, the President experienced internal bleeding and emergency surgery. This can cause the same kind of problems that many experience following open-heart surgery.

During both these types of events, there are major disruptions in blood circulation and blood pressure. This can lead to temporary or even permanent cognitive problems. I worried this may have temporarily affected my friend, the late Senator Arlen Specter, who ran for President himself in 1996, after his heart surgery.

For the new study, published in the medical journal Neurology, researchers from the Center for Healthy Aging at the Benjamin Rush School of Medicine looked at medical data for 10,000 men and women. All the participants were ages 65 years and older. And they lived in Chicago between 1993 and 2011. Researchers evaluated them for dementia every three years.

The researchers took into account the effects of age, ethnicity, and education. Then, they factored in vital statistics combined with U.S. death rates. They also factored in current and future population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

After all these calculations, researchers predict the number of men and women with Alzheimer’s dementia will soar to nearly 14 million by the year 2050. Roughly, five million Americans have the disease currently.

The researchers based their projections on the most recent available data. But these projections–as shocking as they may sound–remain similar to those made years ago. Even decades ago.  Researchers and government funding agencies like nothing more than to repeat the same studies, and make the same “discoveries,” over and over again. 

“All of these projections anticipate a future with a dramatic increase in the number of people with Alzheimer’s and should compel us to prepare for it,” said the study’s co-author.

Spoken like a true statistician. 

A physician at a Center for Healthy Aging who cares about “healthy aging” does not just repeat doomsday predictions. A physician who cares about “healthy aging” wants to point people toward prevention. What can my patients do to help prevent this outcome between now and 2050?

A great deal of research shows the benefits of many natural products for healthy memory and cognitive function. However, these natural approaches remain underfunded and largely ignored by the mainstream. Rather, they just repeat statistical studies like this one.

It is ironic that researchers from the Benjamin Rush School of Medicine would not be more aware of natural approaches. Benjamin Rush–who lived in Philadelphia and signed the Declaration of Independence–is considered a father of American medicine. He strongly advised that all citizens grow their own “physick gardens.” He encouraged citizens to harvest their own herbal remedies because he did not trust apothecaries–the druggists of his day. 

Fortunately, new research shows one natural powerhouse may hold the key to preventing and even slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. And the original Dr. Benjamin Rush would approve.

Subscribers to my newsletter can learn all about this plant extract in a FREE report called The Insider’s Answer for Dodging Dementia.

1. Neurology, 2013; DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e31828726f5