Cognitive decline will always accompany aging to some extent; if aging means the deterioration of the body and its organs and tissues, it’s unreasonable to think that the brain will be spared. Declines in intelligence are probably already underway by the decade of one’s 20s or 30s. In one study, by age 45-49, men experienced a cognitive decline, that is a decline in intelligence, of 3.6%, which rose to nearly 10% by age 65.
One lesson of this, in my opinion, is that it’s never too early to be concerned about one’s mental function. Essential to preserving brain function is good physical health, which necessarily entails good brain health.
However, depending on genetic makeup and other factors, some parts of the body will begin to lose function sooner than others, and when the brain begins to fail noticeably, then dementia or Alzheimer’s or other forms of cognitive decline exist. It’s bad enough when this happens in the very elderly, but it is doubly tragic for a person in his 50s or 60s. This happens often enough. Can anything be done about it? Yes.
There’s a fascinating new paper in the journal Aging by Dale E. Bredesen, M.D., Reversal of cognitive decline: A novel therapeutic program, in which the author describes significant reversal of poor brain function in nine of ten people who undertook his program. (The one who did not improve had late stage Alzheimer’s.) Many of these people were not what we would consider elderly, but were in their 50s or 60s and experiencing enough decline in brain function that they were no longer able to work. Let’s look at a few of the treatment modalities that were used.
The results were remarkable, with 9 of 10 patients experiencing noticeable improvement, and many who had been unable to work were able to return. From the paper:
Results from the 10 patients reported here suggest that memory loss in patients with subjective cognitive impairment, mild cognitive impairment, and at least the early phase of Alzheimer’s disease, may be reversed, and improvement sustained, with the therapeutic program described here. This is the first such demonstration. However, at the current time the results are anecdotal, and therefore a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is warranted.
The results reported here are compatible with the notion that metabolic status represents a crucial, and readily manipulable, determinant of plasticity…
Cognitive decline is not inevitable and in at least some cases may be effectively treated or even reversed.