Cancer has chemo, AIDS has ARV's, and Alzheimers has...nothing. Though both chemotherapy and anti-retroviral treatments are no silver bullets, they offer some action toward horrible diseases. The great minds of the world are trying to find something that can help the estimated 5.1 million Americans suffering. Here's a list of some unorthodox ways scientists are fighting the good fight.
Dronabinol and Nabilone are two FDA approved medical marijuana medications which scientists are experimenting with in Alzheimer's care. Alzheimers.net reported, “A preclinical study pulbished in the journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that very small doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can slow the production of beta-amyloid proteins, thought to be a hallmark characteristic and key contributor to the progression of Alzheimer’s." Time will tell whether or not this is a valid form of treatment and whether or not we can see significant memory retention with THC in memory care.
They say laughter is the best medicine, and the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center of Northwestern University Feinberge School of Medicine has taken the statement to new reaches in memory loss care. A partnership with the neurological institute and Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company created an improv therapy where performers spoke their minds without the worry of forgetting lines. Improv, by definition, is about saying what’s immediately on your mind which allows people to feel more at ease about remembering details in a comedy sketch. “I don’t know what I’m doing...but it’s freeing”, stated one performer. Though the study is done, researchers are still analyzing data to see any differences between “causation vs. correlation”. At the very least, it's a great way to blow off some steam from a frustrating diagnosis. (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-07-13/health/ct-x-0713-alzheimers-improv-therapy-20110713_1_researchers-study-cognitive-neurology-memory-loss)
Exercise has always been known to be good for the soul, but recent studies have shown dancing is taking Alzheimer's care and giving it a new spin on dealing with the disease. The Latino Alzheimer’s and Memory Disorders Alliance in Illinois has created a program called “danzon” aimed at helping those in need of both memory care and exercise inspiration. Helping groups move has proved to be very helpful to the well being of Alzheimer’s patience, as well as memory retention. (http://www.alzheimers.net/2014-02-27/dancing-helps-prevent-dementia/)
4. Pescatarian/Vegetarian Lifestyle
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has recently posted seven tips on boosting brain health and their number one recommendation does not include eating meats and dairy products. Their official website states, “Minimize your intake of saturated fats and trans fats. Saturated fat is found primarily in dairy products, meats, and certain oils.” Though diet has not been completely proven to assist in stopping alzheimer's (nor helping it grow), it is something to take a note of when ordering out next Friday night. (http://www.pcrm.org/health/reports/dietary-guidelines-for-alzheimers-prevention)
Characterized as drugs that cause hallucinations (such as LSD, Salvia, and Magic Mushrooms), this branch of psychedelics is making a stance in memory loss care. Dr. Matthew Johnson, a lead study researcher at John Hopkins Hospital, has expressed salvia as “unlike anything that exists”. Dr. Johnson and his team have been researching what the brain may benefit from with continual trials of hallucinogens. Due to the large family of hallucingenic drugs and their side effects, Dr. Johnson is working strictly through Hopkins Hospital on this study and “home based” research should be avoided and not considered. (http://www.maps.org/news/media/2325-powerful-hallucinogen-eyed-as-treatment-for-alzheimers-chronic-pain)
6. Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter is known for its marriage to jam, it’s amazing protein benefit for bodybuilders, and now a testing agent for early onset alzheimer’s. Researchers at The University of Florida have conducted tests that link the difficulty to smell peanut butter (from the left nostril specifically) as an early sign of Alzheimer’s. Strange as this theory may seem, it is a common fact that sense of smell is one of the first senses to go in cognitive decline. The theory seems to be spread pretty thin, but the University thinks the findings can help those who find themselves in a jam diagnosing. (http://www.alzheimers.net/2014-09-19/peanut-butter-test-predicts-alzheimers/)
7. Word Games
“If you don’t use it, you lose it” is a statement that is proving true in the Alzheimer's community. Television, sleep, and staying sedentary have all shown to increase lapses in memory throughout many versions of memory loss. The Alzheimer’s Association has released a list of mentally stimulating activities to perform daily, including crossword puzzles, attending lectures, and memory exercises. We forget the brain is an organ that performs like a muscle, and it needs working out as much as any other part of our body does. (http://www.alz.org/we_can_help_stay_mentally_active.asp)
Music is the language that transcends country’s, languages, and borders. Growing older has nothing to do with how much we love Mozart, Tim McGraw, or Kanye West. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America states, “Music has power - especially for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias." Music is proving to help with agitation management, emotional closeness, and association of important events in life. Research has shown that music helps us from womb to old age in many ways, and not alzheimer’s is seeing benefits from this past time as well. Documentaries such as “Alive Inside” have shown the drastic work that can be completed with doing nothing more than providing someone with alzheimer’s a song they may have enjoyed in their younger years. Such a simple tune is having a booming effect on care.(https://www.alzfdn.org/EducationandCare/musictherapy.html)
Though usually associated with pretzel like poses and hippie movements, yoga is a wonderful tool that is assisting the alzheimer's community all over the world. The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation stands behind Kirtan Kriya: a form of mediation from the kundalini yoga tradition. Using meditative sounds, breathing exercises, and meditations, alzheimer’s patients can improve cognition and restart parts of the brain that are based in memory. Staying mindful and at peace is the key in this new practice towards finding a cure. Though many American based research institutes remain skeptical, meditation implementation across sees in countries such as India, China, and Japan are showing positive results. Yoga is proving to be an eastern approach which has been showing great promise in helping curb the effects of this disease. (http://alzheimersprevention.org/research/kirtan-kriya-yoga-exercise/)
Fish, or more specifically the omega-3 fatty acids they contain, seem to help with memory retention in Alzheimer patients. A 2009 study (Memory Improvement with DHA) showed patients with age related memory loss scoring better on a computerized memory test than those receiving a placebo in the same study. Omega-3, which is usually taken in pill form, is found naturally in salmon, mackerel, halibut, sardines, tuna, and herring. Though not a silver bullet to end Alzheimer’s entirely, scientists are noting this fact and seeing what more can be found. (http://www.alz.org/professionals_and_researchers_alternative_treatments_.asp)