OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt seems that today aging gracefully is becoming a thing of the past.  There are more and more cases of Alzheimer’s instead.   Alzheimer’s is only one form of dementia, but it seems to be the most common one as of late.  Stories of aging parents not recognizing their loved ones or not being able to function on their own are being told more often than ever before.  Now   ailing seniors are often sent to spend their final years in nursing homes where they can predictably be put on dangerous antipsychotics to control their behavior.  This is unnecessary and in fact inhumane.  Dementia is not a death sentence and can be treated with good results if one looks in the right place. 

Many people, including doctors, think dementia or Alzheimer’s as the beginning of an irreversible decline so that twenty-four hour care is inevitable.  Instead of searching for a physical cause of dementia in that individual, a regular doctor will diagnose the patient to match a disease and prescribe a corresponding drug.  This just puts the person in a pool with many others with the same condition.  This is not necessarily helpful, as this puts more emphasis on the disease and not the individual. 

Dr. Mark Hyman helps people by focusing on the individual and practicing personalized medicine.  Instead of treating dementia once it is diagnosed, he looks at what may have affected the brain in the first place that could have caused dementia.  In other words, he looks for the underlying causes so he can correct them and heal the patient. 

He says that the brain responds like the rest of the body to stress, poor diet, toxins, lack of exercise, lack of sleep and nutritional deficiencies.  Genes are also a factor.  Dr. Hyman says that some genes predispose a person to high cholesterol or accumulating toxins which would make them more at risk for dementia. 

By doing genetic testing and other tests to find deficiencies and the like, Dr. Hyman matches his treatment to the facts he finds, not to match a dementia diagnosis.  For example, a woman received neuropsychological testing and was diagnosed with dementia.  Her doctor told her there was no treatment to stop or reverse dementia.  She then saw Dr. Hyman and she was found to have mercury toxicity, vitamin deficiencies and a low thyroid.  By increasing her exercise, eating a better diet and correcting the deficiencies, her condition improved greatly in six months. 

Dr. Hyman maintains that mental decline is reversible.  It’s as simple as eliminating the problems and feeding the body good things.  If this is done, it will heal.  It is worth checking out the correctable causes for memory loss by getting tested for a pre-diabetes condition, low thyroid, depression, Vitamin B and D deficiencies and omega-3 fat deficiency.  It is also worth looking into high cholesterol, mercury and metal toxicity as well as unique genes that predispose one to detoxification problems or nutritional deficiencies. 

This practice of medicine certainly makes more sense than assuming a person is just going to get worse and eventually wind up with some sort of psychiatric treatment.  Why psychiatric treatment?  It is because dementia, Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment and “memory loss not specified elsewhere” are all listed in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  Psychiatrists have decided these are “mental disorders” because they have something to do with the mind. 

The problem with this is that “mental disorders” are treated with dangerous mind-altering drugs with serious side effects.  They don’t look for any physical causes for memory loss.  It doesn’t matter that the FDA has not approved antipsychotics to treat dementia because any doctor can prescribe a drug “off-label.”   Someone with dementia could be prescribed antidepressants or more likely antipsychotics, especially if they are in a nursing home. 

Antipsychotics are way over-prescribed and are used as sedatives to chemically restrain patients to make life easier for doctors and nurses.  That is abuse in itself, but what is worse is that antipsychotics carry a FDA Black Box Warning stating that antipsychotics increase the risk of death, stroke, heart attack and falls.  

Even though the FDA says antipsychotics should not be prescribed to the elderly with dementia since it can hasten death, it does not stop the drug companies from marketing them for off-label use.  They do not care how many seniors went from lively to listless while on Seroquel or Zyprexa.    Profits are more important than the side effects their drugs have on people.  Drug companies such as Eli Lilly and Astra Zeneca have been fined for such illegal marketing.  However, their profits are so large it’s just the cost of doing business. 

With the above information in mind, if you have a loved one who seems to heading in the direction of dementia, don’t go to a psychiatrist.  Find a doctor like Dr. Hyman, who will find the cause of the memory loss and correct it without drugs.  Your loved one will live a longer and happier life with full mental faculties.