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Novel Prospects for Mitigating the Onset ofAlzheimer's Disease

By Marvin Scott

Alzheimer’s disease; It’s one of the greatest fears of growing old.  Declining memory and mental ability are a real threat to people as they age. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia that worsens with time. Currently, almost seven million Americans aged 65 and older have been diagnosed with the disease, and this number is expected to increase with the growth of older Americans developing cognitive symptoms. 
   Promising research and the development of new drugs offer new hope for coping with and treating Alzheimer’s, but currently, there still is no cure. The good news is that there are a number of therapies and lifestyle factors that could reduce the risk of developing symptoms of the disease or slow the deterioration process if you’ve already been diagnosed. 

No one knows that better than Dr. Philip DeFina, a neuroscientist, author, and lecturer who is the founder and Chief Neuroscience Officer of the International Institute For Brain Enhancement in Delray Beach, Florida.  In his 11,000-square-foot facility, he and his team offer a variety of cutting-edge therapies, which he maintains “can increase longevity and improve the quality of your life.”  
    His team accomplishes this by combining non-invasive light and sound therapies with electrical magnetic stimulation to change the abnormal patterns of brain waves and reorganize them.  He claims some of the modalities he uses can help the brain grow new cells and improve brain connectivity. 

Dr. DeFina notes that the worst enemies of cognitive functioning are stress, inflammation, and toxins.  Studies have shown that people who are distressed and have more negative emotions like anxiety, anger, and depression were 40% more likely to develop memory loss. “Lifestyle changes could help mitigate that problem,” he says, noting that “exercise increases the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain, the key nutrients for cognitive health.”  Good sleep is another factor in slowing down and preventing the progression of dementia. According to Dr. DeFina, “It’s not the amount of time you sleep, but the quality of restorative sleep you get. Sleep plays an active role in remembering things,” he claims. 
   Mental stimulation and social engagement can also reduce the risk of memory loss.  “Use your brain or lose it,” Dr. DeFina emphasizes.  “A sedentary lifestyle and isolation from people have a detrimental effect on the brain,” he says. “People who retire, watch TV all day, and are not socially active have a greater chance of deteriorating brain cells faster.”  A study by Harvard researchers found that elderly people with an active social life have a slower rate of memory decline. 

Inflammation is another culprit robbing brain health.  In Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation and insulin resistance injure neurons and inhibit communication between brain cells. Adjusting diet can reduce inflammation and protect the brain. Dr. DeFina suggests that getting plenty of Omega-3 fats in fish, such as salmon, may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease by reducing beta-amyloid plaques. The Omega-3 acid, known as DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), is a primary structural component of the brain and plays a vital role in brain development and function. As with many other diseases, a healthy diet goes a long way in reducing the risks of Alzheimer’s. The scientist suggests, “the Mediterranean diet is most desirable because it is low in bad fats, rich in healthy fats, and includes plenty of nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables.”  Sugar is another villain of the brain. It can lead to dramatic spikes in blood sugar, which inflame the brain.  
   In his four-decade career Dr. DeFina is known for developing groundbreaking treatments for traumatic brain injuries, coma, Autism Spectrum, and PTSD. In a 6.7 million dollar grant from the Department of Defense, he played a key role in bringing 27 of 30 severely brain-damaged veterans of the Iraq war out of comas.  
   At his facility in Florida and at his Advanced Brain Center in Reston, Virginia, Dr. DeFina contends, 
“Our centers are unique in that we combine different modalities in a very synergistic format to maximize the enhancement of your memory and other cognitive functions and also to improve the energy of your brain.” 

During my visit to the Brain Enhancement facility, I subjected myself to some of the tests and therapies. 
It all begins with a mapping of the brain.  
    A helmet-like device with electrodes was placed on my head while a nearby machine recorded impulses. 
Dr. DeFina explains, “brain mapping is an electroencephalogram, a diagnostic tool that measures electrical activity in the form of brain wave patterns. Brain waves can reveal important information about your overall brain function, including stress levels, thought patterns, and emotions. The test can help determine whether a person has a form of dementia, with Alzheimer’s being the most common type.”                    
    The results of the mapping help doctors decide which form of treatment to use. The Brain Enhancement Center offers a smorgasbord of modalities.   They use multiple types of stimulation simultaneously. Sound therapy combined with red and infrared light is administered while the patient lies in a futuristic-looking bed that pulsates 
an electromagnetic field. Dr. DeFina says the treatment  helps to activate your cells and improve cognitive tasks like memory and attention.  He claims, “The treatment is like taking dozens of medications all at once, all compressed into a one-hour treatment.” 

NanoVi is another non-invasive therapy that counteracts the adverse effects of aging. It restores proteins in the brain and generates a signal that triggers cellular repair through the use of oxygen. 
    According to Dr. DeFina, Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation is a non-invasive treatment delivered through a band placed around the head. 
“It is considered an alternative treatment to alleviate the symptoms of both psychiatric and neurological disorders,” he says.  “It works by delivering a low-level steady electrical current. The process influences electrical signals in the brain, resulting in improved focus, mood, learning capabilities, creativity, 
and mindfulness.” 
    Ozone therapy stimulates and increases oxygen flow to targeted areas and helps to reduce inflammation. In this procedure, blood is drawn from the patient and it is exposed to ozone. Then, it is reinjected into the patient. Autohemotherapy promotes healing of the brain and stimulates cells to proliferate. 

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Many of the therapies being administered at the brain enhancement facility are combined with hyperbaric oxygen treatment.  Patients are comfortably placed in an oxygen chamber where the air pressure is increased, which in turn increases the amount of oxygen at the cellular level, aiding the body’s natural healing process.  Dr. DeFina says the treatment can reduce inflammation in the brain, improve brain metabolism, create new neurons, and increase blood vessels. “The oxygen therapy,” he claims, “can actually help build new brain cells, improving memory, energy levels and sleep cycles.”  Under the watchful eyes of medical technicians, the 90-minute session in the chamber was most relaxing for me, except for the momentary pressure I felt in my ears, much like what I feel during the descent in an airplane. 
   As we advance in years, our medicine cabinets are overgrown with medications to treat a number of ailments. 
The central nervous system in seniors is particularly sensitive to drugs.  It’s advised that a doctor be consulted to determine if any of them are having a negative impact on your memory.  At the same time, the brain experts recommend taking a number of nutraceuticals, pharmaceutical supplements they say provide nourishment to the brain. 
    Early diagnosis is a key to early treatment. According to Dr. DeFina, “Utilizing MRI brain mapping along with electrical brain mapping can diagnose over 90% of Dementia/Alzheimer's cases as many as ten years prior to onset.” 
    While the desperate search continues for that elusive cure for Alzheimer’s, medical professionals suggest subscribing to some of the above therapies. However, the best advice is to become more cognizant of lifestyle changes, like diet, exercise, sleep, mental stimulation, and sociability. According to Dr. De Fina, “Lifestyle factors, if addressed, could reduce up to 40% of the onset of the disease.” 

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A member of the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame and recipient of 12 prestigious Emmy awards for journalistic achievement, Marvin Scott has done it all. Since joining WPIX in 1980, he has served in multiple capacities as anchor, reporter, host and producer. Scott is currently the station’s Senior Correspondent. A veteran journalist with over 50 years of experience in both print and broadcast mediums, Scott’s background includes local, national and international assignments.

He previously anchored “INN Midday Edition” and “USA Tonight Weekend,” nationally syndicated newscasts produced by WPIX’s Independent Network News. For several years Scott was co-anchor of the nightly “WB11 News at Ten.” He has co-hosted special programs, including the Emmy award-winning “OP SAIL ’92: An American Celebration”, “Operation Homecoming” and a number of Columbus and Puerto Rican Day parades. 

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