You are walking down the supermarket isle and can’t remember what it was you wanted to purchase …. Those darned car keys, where are they? What’s his name – I remember the face, just can’t recall his name. It’s so frustrating. We have all had moments like this and often we wonder – “Is this the beginning of Alzheimer’s Disease?” Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is becoming so prevalent in today’s society, almost everyone has a family member or knows of someone with the disease.
First described in 1906 by Dr. Alvis Alzheimer, it seems to be reaching epidemic levels. It is estimated that by the year 2020, twelve million Americans will be diagnosed with AD. At present, it is the cause of death of approximately 150,000 Americans per year, making it one of the country’s leading causes of death. Usually affecting only those into their later years, as the country ages, AD will affect more and more people. Ten percent of people over 65 are diagnosed with AD. By age 85 that number increases to 50% and those 85 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population.
However, AD does not confine itself to only the elderly – it can strike at a much earlier age. AD has three stages. The first is forgetfulness, the second confusion, and the third is total dementia. Having concerns when one cannot remember names of shopping items is therefore understandable. Such memory lapses are usually “benign forgetfulness” and one should not become overly anxious – that is, unless you have mercury in your mouth!
Why I say this will become apparent shortly. The only way to actually confirm whether a person has AD is on autopsy. Clinically it is diagnosed by symptoms and by CAT scans of the brain. As AD progresses the brain shrinks, and this can be seen on the brain scan. Seeing the atrophy of the brain plus symptoms leads to the diagnosis.
Symptoms include memory loss that interferes with normal daily functioning; for instance, you park your car in a shopping mall lot and after shopping cannot recall where it is. Also one loses ability to perform previously routine tasks such as balancing the checkbook, or thinking through complex tasks. As the disease progresses, taking care of oneself become impossible. For instance, one cannot dress themselves properly. Confusion is the common denominator. Often violence or extreme irritability becomes evident. In the final stages there is severe mental incapacity, with little or no cognitive ability.
One Man’s Journey
About ten years ago I read a book called Beating Alzheimer’s by Tom Warren. At age 50, he was given a diagnosis of AD. In his book he includes the CAT scan demonstrating the atrophy of his brain. He recounts how he refused to accept this death sentence. He decided to take responsibility for his own health and began to do research on AD. He started to read everything he could on the subject. If anything gave a flicker to his clouded mind, he would write it down, knowing that in a very short time, it would evaporate from his consciousness. When his wife came home, he would show her his notes and they would talk about it.
Slowly a plan evolved, and they started looking into treatment. First, they asked their doctor to test the acidity in his stomach; it turned out to have the pH of water. Without proper acidity, food cannot be digested properly, and the body literally starves for nutrients. This gave Tom his first ray of hope. The book details his odyssey.
Tom & Dentistry
During his lifetime, Tom had a lot of dentistry. Crowns, fillings, extractions, and root canals. The major treatment that led to his full recovery was having all his teeth removed. This may seem overly drastic, but remember, he was trying to reverse a death sentence. He not only reversed his CAT scan, but he feels healthier now than at any time in his life.
I highly recommend Tom’s book. This book gives some hope to those affected with AD and also to their loved ones. In talking to Tom last year, he related that he has received calls from many, many people thanking him for his book and inspiration, because they have been able to reverse their AD.
How is dentistry related to AD? Next month I will go into the details. Until then remember what my friend, Dr. Ed Arana, Founder of The Academy of Biological Dentistry, said, “We dentists cause more ill health than any other profession; we just don’t take proper credit.“
© 2004, Mark A. Breiner, DDS