2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Reversing Mental Decline and Preventing Alzheimer’s, Part 1

You saw a movie last week and in discussing it with friends simply can’t remember the important parts. Plus you just missed another appointment. Planning to drive to a north suburb, you instead got on the southbound expressway and after 15 minutes of Loop traffic realized your error. You’re mixing up words and forgetting too many names. Reading anything has shifted from pleasure to struggle. You see someone you ought to know but you’re unsure who they are. When you learn it’s someone you’ve known for years, you’re shocked and embarrassed.

And you’re really not all that old. 40s? 50s? Didn’t grandma, now dead after a decade in a nursing home, starting showing signs of senility in her 60s? Many of us lose some of our smarts as we age, but certainly not necessarily. Chicago actor Mike Nussbaum is still taking lead roles at 94. Chicago icon and brilliant polymath Studs Terkel remained as sharp as a tack until he passed away at 96, likely with a martini and cigar at his bedside.

Why the difference and what’s the latest?
Are some of us just doomed to slowly deteriorate mentally while others are blessed with active and inquisitive brains until the end? You can learn a great deal about your brain and how to care for it in what I believe is the most important medical book published this past year, The End of Alzheimer’s, by Dale Bredesen, MD. He’s a UCLA-trained neurologist who has devoted his entire career to understanding mental decline and Alzheimer’s.

Based on microscopic examination of autopsy brain specimens, and more recently PET scans on living people, physicians thought brain deterioration occurred because of an accumulation of a protein called amyloid, which damaged delicate brain cells. They reasoned that if a medication could be developed to dissolve, or at least halt, amyloid production then Alzheimer’s could be cured or slowed down. Unfortunately, after extensive clinical trials, this route met with little success.

Other drugs that are designed to increase certain brain chemicals, like Aricept and Namenda, marginally improve memory but don’t stop Alzheimer’s.

After years and years of study, Dr. Bredesen concluded that researchers were on the wrong track. Amyloid production in the brain occurs when the brain is assaulted by any of several triggers. It’s a defense mechanism gone awry. To some extent, the triggers he describes can cause cognitive decline in just about anyone, but some people are more reactive to these triggers than others. Once assaulted, their sensitive brains pump out amyloid, triggering the fast-forward button of cognitive decline.

There are different manifestations of this decline. The mildest, called subjective cognitive impairment (SCI), means that you yourself notice something’s wrong, but really no one else does. For many of us, SCI feels like just a part of getting older, and fortunately may not lead to Alzheimer’s.

A little more serious is mild cognitive impairment (MCI), noticed by you and others. Again, not everyone with MCI develops full-blown Alzheimer’s, but many do.

Patients with MCI have lower-than-perfect scores on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment Test  (MoCA), which can be administered by a physician or psychologist. It’s one of several tests available and for a thorough exam, more than one type of test should be administered.

WholeHealth Chicago patients can schedule these tests with Dr. Janet Chandler. Obviously and sadly, Alzheimer’s patients score poorly on their MoCA and the scores worsen with the passage of time.

Parenthetically, President Trump scored a perfect 30 on his MoCA, but since many of the items are on the order of drawing a clock face or being shown an unlabeled drawing of a camel and being asked to name it, calling himself a “stable genius” is a bit of a stretch.

What’s attacking the brain?
So if amyloid production with subsequent loss of brain function is a brain defense mechanism gone awry, what exactly is attacking your brain, and why yours?

To some extent, though not completely, it’s genetic. SCI, MCI, and Alzheimer’s can run in families, but for many patients there may be no other family members affected. If there is a genetic villain, it’s APOe4. There are actually four APOe genes (labeled 1 through 4). Keep in mind that you get one gene from each parent, and you can get tested to see what you have. Most people carry APOe3/3 and this poses no increased Alzheimer risk. However, APOe3/4 increases Alzheimer’s risk by two to three times. APOe4/4 increases the risk 12 times.

WholeHealth Chicago patients can contact their primary care provider and schedule APOe testing in our lab. Generally, insurance picks it up but always keep an eye on your deductible. Alternatively, order the 23andMe Health + Ancestry Service for $199, which includes this profile.

It’s important to recognize these facts

  1. You can experience cognitive decline and even develop full-blown Alzheimer’s without any evidence of APOe4 risks.
  2. If you do have either of the APOe risks, there are important–very important–steps you can take to reduce the risk of your genes manifesting themselves as cognitive decline.
  3. If you’re already experiencing some cognitive decline, whether it’s subjective or mild, and you have a less-than-perfect MoCA, or even early Alzheimer’s, you can prevent further damage and even reverse this deterioration.

I’ll cover how to best go about doing this in next week’s Health Tip.  Dr. Bredesen has dubbed his program ReCODE (Reversing Cognitive Decline) and we at WholeHealth Chicago can guide you through it.

Be well,
David Edelberg, MD

For Part 2, click here.

Leave a Comment

  1. Kathleen Frost says:

    I think I’ve had fibromyalgia for many years but was diagnosed approximately 5 years ago. I was working at Walmart and was just exhausted. Not the tiredness that sleep helps. I mean totally exhausted, with muscle pain. My primary doctor diagnosed fibromyalgia. He prescribed Cymbalta around 4 years ago. Cymbalta was approved for Fibromyalgia treatment. Although it did relieve some of the pain, I still suffered from fatigue. November 2017 my doctor started me on Green House Herbal Clinic fibromyalgia Herbal mixture, 7 weeks into treatment I improved dramatically. At the end of the full treatment course, the disease is totally under control. No case of fatigue, muscle pain,mood swings, or nervousness. I am strong again and able to go about daily activities.‌ My life is back.

  2. Great article, Dr. E!
    In addition to testing for dementia, there are several activities older adults can do to keep the brain active. Choral singing is one of the best overall activities for body, mind, and spirit. Encore Illinois currently offers 7 weekday choirs in the city and suburbs. This fall we are launching the Good Memories Encore Chorale, in which people with early-stage dementia rehearse and perform together with their care partners. The New York Times ran an article on Encore just last Sunday. See details at the website below. Keep active and keep singing!

  3. Annette says:

    Kathleen, would you be so kind as to tell me what exactly you are taking? I have struggled with Fibro for 6 years now and I’m tired.

  4. John Baethke says:

    Just finished Dr. Bredesen’s book myself. Is Whole Health Chicago planning to be a ReCODE partner?

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!


Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our


The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

Upcoming Workshops

**Pain Relief with Myofascial Balls
Tuesday, October 29, 6-8pm
With Renee Zambo, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist

Course Fee: $65.00
(includes WholeHealth Chicago Myofascial Release Kit, $40 value)

Does that same spot in your neck, shoulders, back or hips seem to bother you every day? Do you have joint aches and pains in the hands and feet? Would you like to learn ways to alleviate that pain and tension?

Join WholeHealth Chicago’s Yoga and Movement Therapist Renee Zambo for an evening of muscle tension release with myofascial therapy balls.

Space is limited and registration is required.
Please register online.
Call the Center for additional information at (773) 296-6700

Recent Health Tips

  • Dandruff, Fungi, and Cancer of the Pancreas

    It’s an eye-catching title, I’ll admit. But the links are quite real and further research may guide medicine in new directions of cancer prevention and treatment. It all starts in your gut microbiome, the totality of microorganisms–bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi–present in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, mouth to anus. Until recently, researchers and clinical physicians alike paid virtually no attention to the microbiome and the Read More

  • New Hope For Sinus Sufferers

    When osteopath Dr. Rob Ivker moved to Colorado in the 1980s to set up his family practice, he had no idea that when he stepped off the plane he’d succumb to symptoms of chronic sinusitis that just wouldn’t go away: stuffy nose, thick mucus, pressure behind his cheekbones and above his eyebrows, dull aching headache, and thick goopy drainage in the back of his throat. Read More

  • Director of IV Therapies Katie McManigal, BSN, ANP

    Most people at some point in their lives have had an intravenous (IV) line. An adept nurse warned you about the tiny pinch of the needle as it was smoothly inserted and taped in place.  Then the  fluid dangling above your head slowly started making its way through a tube and into your body. IVs are all over the place in hospitals. They’re seen in Read More

October Sale – Save 20% off UltraMeal Rice

UltraMeal RICE is a tasty, non-dairy, nutritionally fortified, powdered meal replacement for those who want to support healthy body composition but may be sensitive to soy.

Click here to take advantage of this month’s promotion!