This week, there has been much discussion in the press regarding the G8 summit in London organised to develop a co-ordinated action plan for tackling Alzheimer's. Leaders and politicians of the world's richest nations have gathered together to recognise the need to halt the progress of this debilitating disease. With an ageing population, dementia is soon to become the biggest burden on healthcare systems around the world. In 2010, the global cost of dementia was around £400 billion and this figure will continue to rise as more people are diagnosed each year. There are estimates that about 135 million people will be living with dementia by 2050. Most certainly, action is required… but what kind of action? Is the current drug-focussed paradigm really the best way to tackle what could be the biggest healthcare problem for our generation?
According to Professor David Smith, Professor of Pharmacology at the University of Oxford (Daily Mail, 10th December 2013) the world has already spent an astonishing £25 billion on drug development with no success on even slowing down disease progression, let alone curing it. Although admittedly a pharmaceutical treatment would be desirable for those who have been diagnosed with dementia, he and more than 100 leading international experts on dementia have called for a major shift in direction towards one of prevention which would require controlled studies based on reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer's through improved diet and lifestyle choices.
Of the £49 million given to research by the UK government last year, not a penny was spent on prevention. Given that so many could be saved from developing the disease in the first place, this is a tragic situation which is ignored by the government and charities alike whilst millions are ploughed into drug development programmes that simply do not work. And yet, we know that preventative measures can significantly reduce the number of Alzheimer's sufferers already. How so? Because the proportion of people developing dementia has been falling for the past 20 years, partly because of the work on preventative measures directed towards reducing heart disease, which has had a knock-on effect on reducing Alzheimer's numbers. Campaigns on lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking, lowering blood pressure and increased exercise have all played a part in preventing both heart disease and dementia. Other studies too have shown how natural remedies can have an important part to play:
- A controlled study by Professor Smith showed that brain shrinkage can be cut by 90% in people with memory problems using vitamin B supplementation.
- Scientists in the US and Germany have shown that supplementation of Omega 3 fatty acids and exercise may also cut the risk of Alzheimer's.
- The increase in oxygen during exercise encourages new brain cells to grow and reduces inflammation and depression, both contributing factors in Alzheimer's.
These areas all require further research but it will not be funded by the big pharmaceutical companies as they are unable to patent exercise or nutrients and therefore will not make any money. There needs to be a shift in thinking, away from the current paradigm that only drug research is worthy science and into a programme which includes research into preventable measures. These are things that we can all do in order to help ourselves. Gone would be the helplessness as we wait for a drug to be developed, and in would come personal responsibility along with things we can all do to help ourselves to live healthier lives and significantly reduce the risk of dementia in later years. To quote Professor Smith, “The G8 governments can give a lead by prioritising funding for research on preventive measures. If these studies are successful, then a great deal of suffering will be averted and huge cost savings will accrue. Now is the time to act."
The Holistic Viewpoint
It is unfortunate that very often in orthodox medical circles, we tend to “shut the stable door after the horse has bolted.” In other words, treatment is based upon the diagnosis, rather than encouraging a healthy lifestyle in order to prevent any health problems of the future. The emphasis in holistic healthcare is ultimately towards prevention. My patients, for example, all come to me with various health concerns that require treatment, however, the measures taken in order to help the patient return to health are the very ones that will also prevent illnesses of the future. The areas that are always covered are:
- Toxicity: Accumulated toxicity in the body can cause any number of disease states. These can include viruses, parasites, fungus, bacteria, chemicals, toxic metals or radiation. Just by dealing with this first area will help many symptoms reduce or disappear in itself. This area can also include allergic responses to certain foods that may require eliminating from your diet.
- Nutrition: Through dietary changes or supplementation, any nutritional shortfall which the body requires for optimal operation can be prescribed. Using kinesiology, we can pinpoint your personal requirements very specifically so that we neither waste time nor money in unnecessary supplementation.
- Emotions: Emotional stress almost always plays a part in our health symptoms and this often overlooked area is always given particular attention, often with amazing results, using Neuro Emotional Technique. More on this can be read in this previous blog.
These areas are at the very core of holistic healthcare and go a long way towards ensuring my patients heal in a safe and natural way. Because of the preventative nature of holism, it is always good to have regular checks every few months to be sure that things are still on course, thus reducing the risk for future health problems.