According to a recent report, the rates of early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) now affects a growing number of younger, commercially insured Americans.
The details of the report released by Blue Cross Blue Shield – The Health of America, in 2017, about 131,000 people between the ages of 30 and 64 were diagnosed with either form of dementia. Diagnosis rates increased by 200% from 2013-2017 in ages 30 to 64. The average age of someone in the commercially insured population living with either condition is 49 with more women disproportionately impacted than men.
The term early onset dementia refers to dementia that first occurs in a person under age 65. Please note that neurodegenerative diseases like AD probably begin as many as 20 years before clinical symptoms appear.
These figures are indeed concerning – but in the face of so many other chronic diseases, should we really be so surprised at these startling statistics? Just consider for a moment that 54% of American children have one or more chronic health problems:
• 1 in 6 children has a developmental disability
• 1 in 8 children needs special education
• 1 in 9 American children has ADHD
• 1 in 12 children has asthma
• 1 in 13 children has at least one potentially deadly food allergy
• 1 in 28 boys has Autism Spectrum Disorder
• 1 in 100 children has seizures
And in adults, one out of every three adults is obese and two out of three are overweight. We know that obesity opens the door to a multitude of health issues. In addition, one out of six Americans have an autoimmune disease and, according to the study from the American Heart Association, 121.5 million Americans, or about 48.5 percent, dealt with heart or blood vessel disease as of 2016. A report released following a study in Great Britain found that one in every two women and one in every three males will develop cancer in their lifetime.
How can we continue to see these kinds of alarming statistics everywhere and not acknowledge that something has to change? As a practicing neurologist for 30 years I have seen first-hand the steady decline in brain health in all generations and can attest to the fact we are without a doubt living in a crisis of brain health!
I firmly believe this assault on the brain is directly related to the toxicity of our world. Just look around us at the culprits like: high inflammatory diets make up the Standard American Diet (SAD) and include foods laced with chemicals and pesticides as well as GMO's that bear little resemblance to our ancestral “cleaner” diets; exposure to and/or ingestion of 85,000+ hidden chemicals and toxins; never-ending stress; inability to effectively respond to infectious triggers; the environmental toxicity of our workplace buildings and homes including mold; poor sleep patterns; lack of exercise ; LPS (lipopolysaccharide) and poor gut health; air pollution; toxins in our water supply; and EMFs from constant use of electronic devices are all factors that bring down our immune system, leaving the body and brain remarkably vulnerable to disease and symptoms.
The incidence of every neurodegenerative disease has risen as well, from autism to ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) to Alzheimer’s to multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and more. Dr. Dale Bredesen said recently, "When I was training in neurology in the 1980s, we simply did not see people in their 50s coming in with AD. Perhaps we were missing it, but I’ve asked a number of my colleagues who were residents with me back then, and no one remembers seeing this. So what is reported fits well with the observations of many of us. Seeing a woman in her early 50s with AD is one of the most common presentations these days, especially when they have clear non-amnestic (AD that does not begin with memory difficulty) symptoms, and again, something I never saw in the 1980s. Many of the factors may be contributing—we are essentially doing everything possible to give ourselves AD, with CAFOs (there are numerous health risks to residents living near concentrated animal feeding operations) and air pollution and pesticides and high-carb diets and mycotoxins and leaky guts and on and on."
I’ve always said that our brain is only as healthy as our body and what's good for the heart is good for the brain. If we want to have long, vibrant lives with robustly health brains it will take much more being the recipient of “lucky” genetics.
Start with the foundations of health:
Eat a healthy non-GMO, preferably organic diet and limit sugar and excess carbohydrates as well as gluten and dairy products.
Exercise at least five times per week; a brisk walk will do and add some strength training to build muscle and help keep your bones strong too.
Lower stress through mindfulness, meditation or prayer – and have you heard of HeartMath? Take a look at their program and see if it’s something that might help you with reducing stress.
Get out in nature.
Lower your toxic load, “green” your home and avoid the use of chemicals and pesticides as much as possible.
Love to the depths or your being and make those important social connections.
Live life with a sense of purpose.
Get 7-8 hours of quality sleep (or at least strive for that on as many nights a week as you can).
We must look at the root causes of these conditions to identify how to treat our patients with appropriate integrative medicine approaches specific to each patient’s needs, their overall health and lifestyle factors that impact disease initiation. If we don’t change how we do medicine and the medicine we do, the statistics we are seeing now are not going to improve. But I do believe there is hope for healing and path forward to treatments – and not just pills – that can truly make a difference.
Dr. Suzy Gazda
For more information about our approach and use of the Bredesen Protocol® see https://www.suzannegazdamd.com/uploads/3/8/3/4/38341157/bredesen_protocol.pdf
My friend and colleague, Dr. Jill C. Carnahan, has written an excellent guide for steps you can take right now toward improving brain health.
Please visit https://www.jillcarnahan.com/10-steps-to-build-a-better-brain-free-guide/?fbclid=IwAR0LnEr2J_fDJzlwafmHn008_850pUa_sWJzGDtgcxLf6ETKKZJmcuOL8fw
Dr. Suzanne Gazda, Integrative Neurology