Tag Archives: dementia

A Message to Caregivers Everywhere: What Family Members Want You to Know

The moment a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, or any form of dementia, families are met with overwhelming responsibilities. Navigating the cruel and lengthy process requires a tremendous amount of support. Often outside help is required, which means caregivers and family members must work together as a team.

This is perhaps one of the greatest challenges. The care families desire for a loved one goes beyond merely completing tasks. These unspoken expectations often result in confused caregivers who perceive requests as unreasonable. What do families really want? The essence is found in these seven simple requests. Continue reading

Why You Should Not Stop Taking Your Vitamins

pale-woman-taking-vitamins_123rf.com_Do vitamins kill people? How many people have died from taking vitamins? Should you stop your vitamins?

It depends. To be exact, it depends on the quality of the science and the very nature of scientific research. It is very hard to know things exactly through science. The waste bin of science is full of fallen heroes like Premarin, Vioxx and Avandia (which alone was responsible for 47,000 excess cardiac deaths since it was introduced in 1999).

That brings us to the latest apparent casualty, vitamins. The recent media hype around vitamins is a classic case of drawing the wrong conclusions from good science.

Remember how doctors thought that hormone replacement therapy was the best thing since sliced bread and recommended it to every single post-menopausal woman? These recommendations were predicated on studies that found a correlation between using hormones and reduced risk of heart attacks. But correlation does not prove cause and effect. It wasn’t until we had controlled experiments like the Women’s Health Initiative that we learned Premarin (hormone replacement therapy) was killing women, not saving them.

New studies “proving” that vitamins kill people hit front pages and news broadcasts across the country seemingly every day.

Paul A. Offit’s recent piece in The New York Times, “Don’t Take Your Vitamins,” mentioned a number of studies that suggested a correlation between supplementation and increased risk of death. Offit asserts, “It turns out … that scientists have known for years that large quantities of supplemental vitamins can be quite harmful indeed.” The flaws in the studies he quoted have been well documented. Giving large doses of a single antioxidant is known to set up a chain reaction that creates more free radicals.

But many studies do not prove anything. Science is squirrelly. You only get the answers to the questions you ask. Many of the studies that are performed are called observational studies or epidemiological studies. They are designed to look for or “observe” correlations. Studies like this look for clues that should then lead to further research. They are not designed to be used to guide clinical medicine or public health recommendations.

All doctors and scientists know that this type of study does not prove cause and effect.

Why Scientists Are Confused

At a recent medical conference, one of most respected scientists of this generation, Bruce Ames, made a joke. He said that epidemiologists (people who do population-based observational studies) have a difficult time with their job and are easily confused. Dr. Ames joked that in Miami, epidemiologists found everybody seems to be born Hispanic but die Jewish. Why? Because if you looked at population data in the absence of the total history and culture of Florida during a given time, this would be the conclusion you would draw. This joke brings home the point that correlation does not equal causation.

Aside from the fact that they fly in the face of an overwhelming body of research that proves Americans are nutrient deficient as a whole and that nutritional supplements can have significant impact in disease prevention and health promotion, many recent studies on vitamins are flawed in similar ways.

How Vitamins Save Money and Save Lives

Overwhelming basic science and experimental data support the use of nutritional supplements for the prevention of disease and the support of optimal health. The Lewin Group estimated a $24 billion savings over five years if a few basic nutritional supplements were used in the elderly. Extensive literature reviews in the Journal of the American Medical Association and the New England Journal of Medicine also support this view. Interventional trials have proven benefit over and over again.

The concept that nutritional supplements “could be harmful” flies in the face of all reasonable facts from both intervention trials and outcome studies published over the past 40 years. For example, recent trials published within the last few years indicate that modest nutritional supplementation in middle age women found their telomeres didn’t shorten. Keeping your telomeres (the little end caps on your DNA) long is the hallmark of longevity and reduced risk of disease. A recent study found that B12, B6 and folate given to people with memory loss prevented brain atrophy that is associated with aging and dementia. In fact, those who didn’t take the vitamins had almost ten times loss of brain volume as those who took the vitamins.

A plethora of experimental controlled studies–which are the gold standard for proving cause and effect–over the last few years found positive outcomes in many diseases. These include the use of calcium and vitamin D in women with bone loss; folic acid in people with cervical dysplasia (pre-cancerous lesions); iron for anemics; B-complex vitamins to improve cognitive function; zinc, vitamins C and E and carotenoids to lower the risk of macular degeneration; and folate and vitamin B12 to treat depression. This is but a handful of examples. Fish oil is approved by the FDA for lowering triglycerides and reduces risk of heart attacks and more. There are many other studies ignored by Offit in his New York Times piece.

Stay tuned for Part 2!


Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

How Light Affects Our Sleep (And Overall Happiness)

moring in prague

Anyone who has ever experienced insomnia can tell you that lack of sleep is one of the cruelest barriers to happiness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25% of the U.S. population reports not getting enough sleep, and a whopping 10% reports chronic insomnia! Not only are we stressed, sick, and overweight in this country, but we are dangerously under-slept – and all of these circumstances undoubtedly have something to do with one another.

In addition to temperature, stress, and other factors, light has been shown to have a major effect on the circadian rhythm. Timing, intensity, and quality of light all play into either promoting or detracting from healthy sleep patterns. Imagine the difficulty night shift workers have to establish their sleep cycles! But even those of us who work regular hours and expect our sleep time to comfortably overlap with the dark hours can be negatively impacted by a disturbance in our light exposure. Think: computer and cellphone screens, artificial light, television, and the like.

Doctors and scientists in recent decades have developed light therapy treatment for various issues, including sleep disorders, and their results are promising. One study published in the American Psychological Association journal reported patients’ improvement in circadian rhythms after two hours of bright light exposure in the morning in conjunction with light restriction around bedtime. Another study published in Biological Psychiatry reported that bright light therapy can reduce the incidence of relapse in patients after other forms of sleep therapy – the results of which, by the way, may have a major affect of reducing depressive symptoms in patients with depression. The future looks bright, indeed.

Bright light therapy has also been shown to help treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), as well as reduce the incidence of behavioral disorders in patients suffering from dementia. All evidence points to the fact that light gravely affects not only our sleep patterns, but also our minds, emotions, and overall pursuit of happiness. With that in mind, it’s heartening to know that there may be measures we can take, which include light therapy, to increase overall health and wellness.

 Here are some tips on promoting sleep health with light therapy:

  1. Put your phone, computer, and television away after dark, or at least close to bedtime. Those moments right before bed might seem like the perfect time to catch up on email or your favorite show, but doing so may inhibit your ability to fall asleep. So save it for the morning, and pick up a book or sketch pad, instead.
  2. Go to sleep a bit earlier to align your sleep rhythm more closely with the day. This is hard to do, especially if you’re a parent, student, or busy professional. But going to sleep earlier might just allow you to wake up a bit earlier, too, and not lose an inch of productivity!
  3. Try using candlelight and natural light as much as possible. Artificial light has been implicated in the growth of sleep disorders – and again, much of this has to do with laptops and television screens. Turn it off, unplug, and opt for natural light.
  4. Make sure your bedroom is lit (and unlit) as much as possible by natural light. For instance, keep it dark after dark and around bedtime, but be sure the morning sunlight makes it in, as well. Exposure to bright light upon awakening, as we mentioned, can help promote healthy circadian rhythms. So let the light in!

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18154748891333272199Are you ready for a healthy Vegas vacation?

The first of their kind in the world, Stay Well Rooms at the MGM Grand in Vegas are furnished with a number of amenities designed to maximize health, wellness, and relaxation. From dawn simulator alarm clocks, to state-of-the-art air and water purification systems, to aromatherapy, Stay Well rooms provide an unprecedented opportunity to have a healthy travel experience — even in Las Vegas. Designed by real-estate pioneer Delos Living, in conjunction with the Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Deepak Chopra, Stay Well will change the way you think about travel and hotel rooms. Learn more or book your reservation here.

Mallika Chopra: Coping with Loss

For our third hangout in the “Aspire to Inspire” series, Mallika Chopra hosts a discussion on “Coping with Loss.” She will be joined by Todd Hartley, CEO of WireBuzz who lost both of his grandparents at the same time; Chelsea Roff, who has been featured on CNN and the Hallmark channel with her story of coping with a mother who has alcohol induced dementia; and Laurel Lewis who practices as a hospice nurse and also runs Death & Dying Dinner events in Southern California. (You may remember Laurel from 30 Days of Intent!)

Join us for this poignant conversation right here or on The Chopra Well YouTube channel!

Deepak Chopra: Alzheimer’s Disease — How to Face Fear With Knowledge (Part 2)

By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP and Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D.,

The Joseph P and Rose F. Kennedy, Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Director of Genetics and Aging, Massachusetts General Hospital

In the first post we confronted the primary fact about Alzheimer’s disease – fear and terror – which is a psychological reality, not a piece of scientific data. Our minds are the window to reality. Any form of mental illness is frightening to the patient because their grip on reality has become tenuous, if not delusional. The same disorder is frightening to onlookers because the fragile bond that links us – our agreement that A is real but B is not – is threatened and often broken beyond repair.



Visualization is courtesy of TheVisualMD.com
To lose someone you love to Alzheimer’s feels worse than death to many families. Death is a decisive break, and afterwards the grieving process occupies its own domain.  The territory is painful, to the point that many grieving survivors would rather follow their loved ones into the unknown after death. But Alzheimer’s is a gray, ambiguous land where your loved one gradually fades away, with many false returns and defeated hopes.  Death is considered a mercy compared to the tormented stranger who torments those who suffer through the disease with them.


We said in the first post that knowledge is our best weapon in fighting fear. At least we can stand on rational ground.  And knowledge is advancing in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s.  As painfully slow as progress may seem – like the disease itself, there have been defeated hopes along the way – let me summarize the current state of affairs.


In Alzheimer’s disease, two abnormal buildups accumulate in the brain. One type of buildup is a sticky substance called beta-amyloid. It deposits in senile plaques, on brain blood vessels, and as smaller clumps in the synapses where it can disrupt communication between nerve cells impairing learning and memory. The other type is the neurofibrillary (nerve cell) tangles. These buildups disrupt the trafficking of proteins and neurotransmitters in nerve cells leading nerve cell death and neurodegeneration. Together, these abnormal buildups lead to Alzheimer’s type dementia and are targets of drug discovery aimed at treating and preventing this devastating disease.


Testing for and diagnosing Alzheimer’s involves psychological tests that assess cognition. Doctors can make a probable diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, but the only time a definite diagnosis can be made is at autopsy, when the pathologist confirms the widespread presence of plaques and tangles throughout the brain.


More recently specific types of brain imaging, including those capable of visualizing senile plaques and other beta-amyloid deposits are being used to detect Alzheimer’s changes in the brain. Biomarkers in the cerebrospinal fluid can also indicate the presence of plaques and tangles in the brain. The combination of brain imaging and biomarkers is dramatically enhancing our ability to diagnose Alzheimer’s and even detect it before any cognitive symptoms appear.



During the course of Alzheimer’s disease, several key proteins are deposited in the brain, including proteins called amyloid beta protein and tau protein. Amyloid beta protein (in senile plaques, blood vessel beta-amyloid, and small clumps of beta-amyloid in synapses) accumulates in the areas of the brain responsible for learning and for creating, retaining, and extracting memories. The plaques occupy more and more space over time causing brain inflammation. The smaller clumps of amyloid beta protein known as oligomers interfere with normal communication between brain cells, disrupting the neural network of the brain.


Most of the scientists who study Alzheimer’s believe that it’s the excessive accumulation of amyloid beta protein that induces the protein called tau to form nerve cell tangles that eventually choke and kill nerve cells. Beta amyloid protein is certainly a part of Alzheimer’s, but the presence of beta amyloid alone isn’t sufficient to cause the disease. Beta amyloid must trigger tangle formation to create dementia. So far, the genes that have been shown to affect risk for Alzheimer’s have in common that they increase the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain. More recently, the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Alzheimer’s Genome Project has identified dozens of new Alzheimer’s disease gene candidates, many of which likewise influence beta-amyloid levels in the brain.


What tests are used for Alzheimer’s?

There is no single test for Alzheimer’s. A physician examining someone who may have the disease will consider many factors and conduct a number of tests  before making a diagnosis. The physician will probably ask questions about the person’s medical history and conduct a physical exam. A neurological exam will probably be given as well. Some of these tests are done to rule out another medical disorder (for example, a vitamin deficiency) that may be causing Alzheimer-like symptoms.


Cognitive tests for Alzheimer’s

A commonly used mental status test is the mini-mental state examination (MMSE). The MMSE is a brief test that only takes about 10 minutes to complete. In it, the health care professional asks a series of questions designed to test a range of everyday mental skills. These include:


  • Orientation. Up to 10 questions are asked to determine if the person knows where he or she is as well as the time of day, day of the week, month, season, and year.


  • Registration. The examiner names three objects and asks the person to repeat all three names.


  • Calculation and attention. The person is asked to make a series of calculations.


  • Recall. The person being tested is asked to recall the three objects named earlier.


  • Language. Testing is done for a series of skills, including naming, repetition, the ability to follow oral instructions, reading, and writing.


  • Visual perception. The person is asked to copy shapes.


The highest possible score for the MMSE is 30. Scores of 25 or more are considered normal. Scores between 10 and 19 indicate moderate dementia. People with mild Alzheimer’s tend to score from 19 to 24. However, scores need to be interpreted individually to account for a person’s age, education, and other factors. It’s possible for someone to receive a high score and still have significant cognitive deficits.


Imaging tests for Alzheimer’s

Neuroimaging (brain imaging) uses a variety of different techniques, including radiation and magnetic fields, to generate pictures of what’s happening inside the brain. Some methods show microscopic physical structures; others capture the activity of individual cells. By taking pictures of brain activity, doctors can get some idea of how much amyloid plaques have encroached on healthy brain tissue. The images can highlight where nerve cells are becoming weaker and starting to deteriorate, possibly leading to loss of function.


  • CT scans generate visual “slices” of the brain. They are used to make sure the person with Alzheimer’s symptoms doesn’t have a tumor or hasn’t had a stroke.


  • MRI scans can be used to check for tumors or strokes. They are also used to see if there is shrinkage in different areas of the brain where groups of nerve cells have died due to Alzheimer’s. Functional MRI can check whether the correct brain regions are being activated when carrying out a certain mental task.


  • PET scans show where nerve cells and their synapses are most active. They allow doctors to see whether any areas of the brain are not functioning correctly.


  • CT+PET scans combine the brain structure information provided by the CT scan with the brain function data shown by the PET scan. In Alzheimer’s, areas of nerve cell loss correspond with regions where the level of brain activity has decreased.


  • PIB+PET imaging uses a substance called Pittsburgh Compound B (PIB). PIB binds to amyloid protein and also glows when patients’ brains are scanned with PET. Using PIB during a brain scan may alert doctors to the presence of senile plaques and blood vessel amyloid before symptoms of Alzheimer’s appear. One in five elderly persons who don’t have cognitive impairment or memory problems still show brain deposits of beta-amyloid similar to levels found in people who have Alzheimer’s. However, in these infrequent cases, it is usually the lack of abundant tangles that most likely explains the absence of dementia despite abundant brain amyloid. This also tells us that excessive beta-amyloid is necessary to trigger Alzheimer’s, but it is not sufficient – tangles are needed to cause neurodegeneration and dementia.


Detecting Alzheimer’s early

Researchers are trying to find ways to do something they have never been able to do before: diagnose Alzheimer’s years before the first symptoms appear. By identifying those most at risk, we may learn which lifestyle changes or medications can slow down or even reverse the progression of the disease. It would also help recruit the most appropriate patients into clinical trials.


Biomarkers are biochemical features that can be used to measure the progress of a disease. Researchers can now detect the most toxic form of amyloid beta protein, called A-beta 42, in the cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord). Levels of this protein go down as the disease progresses, presumably because as A-beta 42 is released in the brain, it becomes sequestered by the growing numbers of senile plaques and other beta-amyloid deposits. Another useful cerebrospinal biomarker for Alzheimer’s is called phospho-tau. Phospho-tau makes up the tangles and is released by dying nerve cells. Recently, it has been found that phospho-tau can travel from nerve cell to nerve cell and spread tangle pathology.


By combining tests for decreased levels of A-beta 42 and increased levels of phospho-tau, researchers have reported impressive accuracy in predicting which people with mild cognitive impairment will go on to develop Alzheimer’s. By recording levels over time, doctors may be able to determine if the disease is getting worse or remaining stable. Someday, the same biomarkers might be used to predict which cognitively normal individuals are already on their way to Alzheimer’s. This will help improve recruitment of the best subjects for clinical trials of new therapeutics for treating Alzheimer’s disease.


Early prediction: GenesIn the less-common form of the disease, familial early-onset Alzheimer’s (which occurs under the age of 65), inherited gene mutations are clearly implicated. The mutations occur in three genes (named APP, PSEN1, and PSEN2) and increase the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain.


In the more common, late-onset form of Alzheimer’s, genetic inheritance also plays a role by increasing susceptibility to the disease. Certain gene variants, like APOE4, affect the accumulation of beta-amyloid in the brain by influencing how it efficiently it is cleared out of the brain. More recently, the efforts of the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund Alzheimer’s Genome Project and other international consortia have confirmed a dozen new late-onset Alzheimer’s gene candidates.  Some seem to affect the buildup of beta amyloid, while others influence the brain’s immune system and cholesterol metabolism.



There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are many things people can do to possibly reduce and delay symptoms of memory loss.



  • See a doctor. It’s natural for memory to slip as we age. But if you’ve noticed that you or a loved one have lost the ability to recall or even learn new things, then it’s worth discussing the problem with a doctor. He or she can help determine whether these lapses are a part of normal aging, another medical condition, or possibly the first signs of mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s.


Cognitive reserve

Why do some people have beta amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles and yet show no signs of dementia? The theory of cognitive reserve holds that these people have compensated for the gradual decline in cognitive function caused by accumulating amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. They’ve done this by building up enough reserves of synapses and nerve cell networks to make up for the loss of cells to disease.


Here’s how cognitive reserve can be built up:


  • Social network. Having a rich social life and keeping in touch with family and friends can stimulate the brain and may slow down cognitive decline.
  • Intellectual Stimulation Staying intellectually active by seeking new educational experiences like public lectures and seminars, going to museums all help to maintain or even increase the brain’s nerve cell network. Every new synapse you make when learning something new will reinforce the synapses you already have. This is because all of learning is based on making associations with what you have already learned in the past.


Manage weight and other health factors

A long-term study of 1,500 adults found that those who were obese when they were middle-aged were twice as likely to develop dementia later in life. Those who also had high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels had six times the risk of dementia. Clearly, there are benefits to keeping weight and cholesterol at healthy levels and managing high blood pressure.


Eat a brain-health diet

Foods containing high levels of antioxidants may protect brain cells. These foods include dark-skinned fruits (like blueberries) and vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (like kale, Brussels sprouts, and spinach), fatty cold-water fish (or flaxseeds for vegetarians), and nuts (like walnuts). It must be kept in mind, however, that there is no one-to-one link between any of these foods and the prevention of a disorder as specific as Alzheimer’s.  Another antioxidant, Vitamin E, has had some persuasive results in the aging process generally; it can’t hurt o take a supplement, as no negative effects have been noticed from large doses of Vitamin E.



Exercising regularlymay be one of the best ways to forestall the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. One study used MRI scans to compare the brains of adults who ranged in fitness from sedentary to very athletic. They found the most distinct differences in the brains were in the areas associated with learning and memory: exercise decreased the amount of brain tissue lost in these areas. In mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease, exercise dramatically reduced brain pathology.




  • Improves concentration and attention
  • Reduces gray matter loss
  • Promotes growth of new nerve cells
  • Strengthens the connections between nerve cells
  • Enhances blood flow to the brain by increasing the size and density of brain capillaries
  • Reduces beta-amyloid levels.

Because society is aging in unprecedented numbers around the world, any piece of good news about Alzheimer’s will land on the front pages and on evening news. Research continues to be intensive and widely funded. But a realist must face the hard truth: this remains a devastating disorder that invades the most complicated organ of the body, the human brain, which may indeed be the most complex creation in the cosmos. No simple preventive is known’ no simple cure is likely. The best policy is to remain focused on wellness as a long-term lifestyle. For our part, we believe that the deeper we delve into consciousness and how it affects the body down to the genetic level, the clearer the whole picture of dementia will become.
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What else can I do?

I work in a long term care facility. (AKA: Nursing Home).  I love my job as I get the wonderful oppertunity each day to provide loving care for the patients.  Their medical and mental declination along with the struggle of transitioning to this new phase of life is a difficult one for many of them.  There are two types and they have the same circumstances but thier view on it is night and day.  I am so very grateful to play a support role in thier lives.  However, every now and then we get a married couple.  Over the last few weeks I have witnessed the husband and wife slide further down physically.  The wife, always letting us know what her husband needed came across to many of my co-workers as "demanding, whiny and bothersome".  Now as her husband went from eating ice chips and moving around in bed to comatose and when he was lingering between this life and the next we moved her bed next to his and she lay with him as he passed.  Last night I sat with her and listened.  She had been visited by her family (daughter and grandkids and sister) but they had left and taken his body back to where they lived and simply left her with us…I was more than a little upset by this.  As she talked I could feel what seemed like every ounce of her pain.  I could nothing more than that.  No words or actions could have helped eased her suffering.  I got home this morning and sat and meditated simply doing what I could to send her loving kindness.  I am sometimes totally helpless and can do nothing more that hold a hand, smile and listen. 

Now I must express how important our older (elderly) and Dementia relatives are to ALL of us.  They represent a "forgotten" group of our society here in the US.  They, like you and I , deserve patience and respect.  We would not just send our little kids to a boarding school simply because they don’t think mentally on the same level we do.  And yet we do this to them day in and day out.  I can cry for them and love them do the right things for them.  I only hope more people would too. 

Brain Healing Power of Periwinkle

Periwinkle is a European plant used by herbalists to treat nervous disorders, epilepsy, hysteria, and nightmares.  Exciting new research into this delicately beautiful plant shows that vinpocetine, a derivative of vincamine, a natural compound in periwinkle, helps transport oxygen and glucose to the brain.  Since the brain needs both to function optimally, periwinkle may be beneficial for assisting to ease brain disease. 


 With around one hundred studies conducted on vinpocetine’s effects on humans, mostly in Hungary, it is not surprising that it has been used by Hungarian doctors to treat senility and blood vessel disorders in the brain for twenty-five years.  In these studies it appears to boost memory and cognition in healthy people and in those with mild to moderate forms of dementia.

 A double-blind study in 1985 in the European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers tested vinpocetine’s effect on the short-term memory of twelve healthy women.  The women who took forty milligrams of vinpocetine three times per day for two days scored thirty percent higher on short-term memory tests than the women in the placebo group.

 In another double-blind study in 1991, published in International Clinical Psychopharmacology, researchers tested 165 people with mild to moderate dementia.  After sixteen weeks, twenty-one percent of those taking thirty to sixty milligrams of vinpocetine daily reported a decline in symptom severity, compared to only seven percent of those taking the placebo. 

 Vinpocetine is a powerful free radical scavenger. Used regularly, periwinkle, or its active ingredient, vinpocetine, may help to prevent senility and dementia, by preventing damage to the blood vessels in the brain caused by free radicals.  Vinpocetine also thins blood, boosts circulation in your brain, and improves the brain’s ability to absorb nutrients, all of which improve brain function.  Research shows that vinpocetine works as well as ginkgo biloba— an herbal superstar for aiding brain oxygenation— in improving memory and cognitive abilities.

 Periwinkle and vinpocetine are showing tremendous promise as a therapy for many brain diseases, especially stroke recovery.  It is used throughout Europe and Japan as a natural therapy for stroke since it helps increase blood flow to areas of the brain with minimal function.

 Experts typically suggest dosages of up to ten milligrams daily, taken with food.  Up to forty-five milligrams is considered a safe daily dose; but, doses above ten milligrams should be supervised by a health care practitioner.  Vinpocetine appears to be safe for short- or long-term use.  The effects tend to be fast-acting, not cumulative.  In rare cases, someone may experience minor stomach upset and a dry mouth.  Check with your doctor before taking either vinpocetine or periwinkle, especially if you are taking blood-thinning medications. 


Michelle Schoffro Cook, DNM, DAc, CNC is a best-selling and six-time book author, whose works include:  The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, The Brain Wash, and Healing Injuries the Natural Way.  She is a doctor of natural medicine, doctor of acupuncture, holistic nutritionist, and energy medicine practitioner.  Her work has been featured in/on:  Woman’s World, First for Women, Dr. Roizen’s YOU: The Owner’s Manual Radio Show, Gaiam Life, Yahoo! Shine, and The Huffington Post.  www.TheLifeForceDiet.com.




Alzheimer’s Misunderstood Cousin…

While Alzheimer’s is constantly at the forefront of the health care industry and the media, there is another far less “famous” type of brain disease, called Frontotemporal Dementia, often misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s or misdiagnosed period. I’d certainly never heard of it and it obviously wasn’t on the minds of many of our doctors, as we went through a seemingly endless quest to determine what was wrong with my mother. We were told everything from Alzheimer’s to grieving to Hydrocephalus (better known as water on the brain). One doctor actually wanted to put a shunt in her head to drain it…

My mother was an amazing woman…strikingly beautiful in a Liz Taylor kind of way, talented and gifted, and possessing a strong, resilient personality. She was someone who had suffered a great deal of loss in her life: losing her only brother in World War II and then her husband, my father, who died of a sudden heart attack at the ripe old age of 37. There she was, left with two children (that would be me at 10 years old and my brother at 7) and no paying job.
But, after my father died, my mother reinvented herself. She started an interior design business, which became very successful to the point where she was asked to be on the Architectural Commission for the City of Beverly Hills. And, her second husband turned out to be the great love of her life and a fantastic father to us. All was well with her world…until he started to get sick…a lot.
My dad suffered from a variety of illnesses:  Melanoma Cancer, Myasthenia Gravis (often compared to Multiple Sclerosis) and Leukemia. He fought each disease until he simply couldn’t fight any more…talk about a trooper. And through it all was my ever-strong mother, caring for him in ways only she knew how. But, when he finally succumbed to the Leukemia, something changed in my mother… almost immediately.
When my stepfather died, I was already married and had two children of my own. I invited my mom to stay with us after the funeral for a few days, so she wouldn’t have to be alone right away. I knew that she would quickly pick herself up, start traveling and partying with all her widow friends and life would be good for her again. But, after several weeks, we couldn’t get her to leave my house. People kept telling me she was grieving, but I knew better. Something was incredibly wrong.
Finally, after many misdiagnoses, she was diagnosed correctly with Frontotemporal Dementia, similar to Alzheimer’s, but affecting the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, the areas generally associated with personality, behavior and language.Doctors said that her final years would be very similar to an Alzheimer’s patient…that “they all end up the same.” It was devastating. How could this happen to someone so vibrant?!
I never got my mother back as I had known her and watched her deteriorate through different stages for eight long years. There was the OCD phase, where she would use toilet paper rolls exactly half way down and then pile them up on the toilet. Or, she would eat the same thing every day: exactly half a croissant and half a cup of coffee, storing the leftovers in neat rows in a cabinet for us to discover weeks later in horror. There was the hitting stage, where she would hit me and then giggle about it like a child. Then there was the memory loss, inability to speak and then nothing…where she laid curled up in bed in a fetal position, staring blankly. I was with her when she finally passed away…telling her it was okay to go. Now, I would give anything to have the hitting and OCD back. At least, I could still have a conversation with her.
When my brother, Dan, and I came up with the concept for the “I’m Tired of…” bracelet campaign, which raises money for important causes, like Alzheimer’s and Dementia, it was driven by several factors, one of the strongest being our own personal experiences with disease…a father lost to heart disease, a stepfather lost to many diseases and, finally, a mother lost to this obscure Dementia, perhaps the greatest motivator of all. My intent is to raise awareness and help to find a cure, so others don’t have to tell a story like mine.
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