Recently I trained as a Bredesen ReCODE Coach, adding to my professional knowledge base and credentials as I look to help anyone concerned about their brain health.
But my desire to prevent and reverse cognitive decline goes beyond a professional achievement.
It’s deeply personal, too.
About five years ago, someone close to me received a diagnosis that no one wants to hear: Alzheimer’s disease. We’d been seeing some signs, but the diagnosis landed like a ton of bricks. As anyone who’s experienced dementia knows, that medical confirmation is often just the beginning (or continuation) of a challenging journey.
And the route differs for everyone.
I already was practicing as an integrative health coach, helping people change their habits to benefit their overall health. But I didn’t know much yet about the specific lifestyle changes that might slow cognitive decline or improve my loved one’s quality of life. (More on that later.)
So I went searching.
I discovered the work of Dale Bredesen M.D., a neurologist and neuroscience professor who had been researching dementia for years. His first book, “The End of Alzheimer’s: The First Program to Prevent and Reverse Cognitive Decline,” was released in 2017. And in it, he outlined at least 36 metabolic imbalances that can trigger a “downsizing” in the brain.
Bredesen asserts that no one drug will be able to effectively cure Alzheimer’s. His research indicates that Alzheimer’s has so many different contributors or triggers that it will take a multifaceted, personalized approach to overcome.
In early 2022, Bredesen and others published the positive results of a clinical trial that took a precision medicine approach to Alzheimer’s. The small study identified and targeted the drivers of Alzheimer’s or pre-Alzheimer’s in each participant.
Facts and figures about Alzheimer’s disease
More than 6 million Americans now live with Alzheimer’s disease. And experts expect that by 2050, without something changing, that number will grow to 13 million. Alzheimer’s is a specific type of dementia; it’s the most prevalent, but not the only one.
To date, the U.S Food and Drug Administration has approved six medications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s symptoms. Five treat symptoms but do not alter the underlying brain changes or change the course of the disease. The sixth, approved in 2021, aims to alter underlying brain changes. Approved by the FDA even after an independent committee voted to reject the drug, aducanumab costs more than $50,000 per patient per year and carries with it some serious risks.
The six approved drugs are based on the “amyloid hypothesis” of Alzheimer’s disease, which asserts that a build-up of protein called amyloid-β in the brain causes neurodegeneration.
Because no known cure currently exists for Alzheimer’s, a diagnosis or even a genetic history of the disease may seem hopeless.
But it doesn’t have to be, according to Bredesen and others who are taking a different approach to their research. “Alzheimer’s disease should be – and shall be – a rare disease,” Bredesen says to open his follow-up book, “The End of Alzheimer’s Program,” which outlines his protocol.
He has his critics, though – doctors who say Bredesen and others peddle false hope and a complicated, expensive protocol that insurance typically does not cover.
Why I went searching for more answers
Research indicates that women are at greater risk of Alzheimer’s than men. And beyond my initial searching for answers, I also began wondering about answers for myself and the other women in my life – women who are younger, show no current signs of cognitive decline, and might stand a good chance of reducing their risks.
Call it denial or stubbornness, but the “there’s no cure” refrain still doesn’t satisfy me.
As a health coach, I know that healthy choices can prevent, delay, and help manage chronic conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancers. And it makes sense when doctors say that what benefits the heart and lungs also benefits other organs, including the brain.
Engaging in physical activity and maintaining heart health help reduce dementia risk. Two diets – DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet have been studied and are viewed as important to reducing risk. Sleep and stress reduction also are important.
Doctors share these strategies with patients, but it’s not easy to make changes on your own, especially if you already have cognitive deficits and don’t know how or where to start building healthier habits. That’s where coaching can come in.
And as a national board-certified health and wellness coach, I was eligible to be trained as a Bredesen ReCODE 2.0 coach.
What is the Bredesen Protocol?
Rather than approaching dementia with a one-size-fits-all plan, the Bredesen Protocol is a comprehensive, personalized program designed to improve cognition by supporting the brain.
The first steps in it involve identifying and addressing all of the contributors, or potential contributors, to an individual’s cognitive decline or risk of cognitive decline.
Research shows that changes in the brain may begin decades before the first symptoms start to appear, so assessing a person’s risk before the onset of symptoms, and mitigating those risks, is instrumental.
At the same time, the protocol focuses on optimizing overall health, including brain health, by making changes in seven complementary areas:
- brain training/stimulation
What does a Bredesen ReCODE Coach Do?
Those areas make up the Bredesen Seven, or B7. Addressed individually, they can improve the brain’s ability to heal and grow new neurons and synaptic connections. Together, they create a powerful synergy for that healing and growth.
As a Bredesen ReCODE 2.0 Certified Coach, I can help people implement the lifestyle components of the Bredesen Protocol. ReCODE 2.0 is the name of the comprehensive program for individuals with early Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or subjective cognitive impairment (SCI). And PreCODE is the name of the program for those concerned about or at risk for cognitive decline but with no detectable symptoms.
I work primarily with people on the PreCODE program, in addition to working with my own individual and group coaching clients to improve different areas of their health. And I plan to continue educating others on brain health and cognitive decline, so look for more articles here in the future. To subscribe to all of my updates, please visit this link.
Making Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases rare, yes, is a professional aspiration, and a personal one. Let’s work together.
Amy Hoogervorst, a national board-certified health and wellness coach, offers grace and space for a healthier you. She works 1:1 and in groups to help you create healthier habits that stick. Schedule a discovery call here to learn more about coaching with Amy.