The prevalence of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease across the globe is increasing exponentially with 13 million cases expected in the United States alone by 2050. This disease, in all its forms, is taking a heavy toll on families and the country in terms of unpaid caregiver hours (18.1 billion), direct costs (an estimated $236B in 2015), and the anguish experienced by individuals and their families. The billions of dollars spent on medical research has resulted in few drugs and none that have had a measurable effect on the disease’s progression.
First Signs of Hope
There is concrete evidence that recovery from mild to moderate dementia may be possible using a different approach.
Sharp Again’s founders first heard about people who had reversed their dementia in late 2011 from someone who had gone online looking for supplements to help her mother who had been diagnosed at age 72 with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). Instead, what she found were stories of people who had regained cognitive function after their own diagnoses of AD. She and her husband who is a videographer decided to go meet, interview and videotape these people, their patients, family members, and caregivers.
After reviewing the research and seeing the video footage, Sharp Again’s founders felt the information was compelling enough to bring it into the public sphere. Sharp Again was established as a nonprofit organization in 2012.
A Multi-causal, Multi-therapeutic Approach
After learning about these causes of dementia, it would be another two years before we learned about the work of Dr. Dale Bredesen at UCLA and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. During the past few years, Dr. Bredesen had been conducting a small study utilizing a similar multi-causal, multi-therapeutic approach. His groundbreaking results showed a 90% success rate (nine out of ten subjects) in restoring cognitive function, enabling those who had to quit or cut back on work to return to their jobs.
What Dr. Bredesen’s research made clear is that dementia has many causes and that treating all of them simultaneously often produces the best results. He uses a leaky roof with 36 holes as an analogy for AD: you can patch one hole or even several holes, but the roof will still leak until all the holes have been repaired.
Working with our Medical and Dental Advisory Board, Sharp Again has identified 10 causes of dementia that can be evaluated and treated, potentially reversing memory loss and restoring full cognitive function:
As our population lives longer, it is estimated that half of our elders over the age of 85 will be afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. However, we are also seeing up to 5% of dementia cases (over 250,000) diagnosed before the age of 65. These are harrowing statistics.
There is currently no pharmaceutical cure, and the likelihood of a single medicine being developed is remote indeed. The disease is simply too complex for one or even several medications to address all of the causes identified so far. However, we do know enough to act effectively TODAY. We have knowledge now that can save people’s memories and their lives. Making this approach universally available to the public and the medical community will require us all working together to make this common knowledge and to change the prevailing mindset.
We have learned a lot in the past few years, and we leave you with this message:
The easiest way to treat dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease is to PREVENT IT, even if you have a history of dementia in your family or if you carry the APOE4 gene. Start by taking steps to address the causes above—eat well, exercise, be mindful of chemical exposure, stay involved with friends and loved ones, reduce stress and get enough sleep. However, if you do start noticing memory issues in yourself or a loved one, seek help immediately. The sooner you take action to find out what is causing the problem and have it treated, the higher the likelihood full cognition can be restored.