Help for Alzheimer’s when Meds Aren’t Enough

When symptoms progress far enough with Alzheimers dementia, there are several medications that are used. The most commonly used is Aricept, a cholinesterase inhibitor.

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that our brain cells use to communicate between one another, especially those brain cells dedicated to learning and memory. Cholinesterase is the enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine. If you block the enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter, your brain will have more of the acetylcholine running around to make sure that a message passes from brain cell A over to brain cell B.

Namenda is another commonly used drug that blocks the action at the NMDA receptor, thereby blocking the action of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. This can slow the brain activity down and keeps the brain cells from literally working themselves to death.

Beyond these medications, however, there are few options. My general answer to this concern, however, is that our understanding of what contributes to neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease is quite detailed. While prevention is beyond the scope of this article, you can read previous articles on this topic by clicking here.

This particular article takes a fresh look at an old favorite natural compound for treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia. Ginko biloba. What is interesting here, though, is that researchers used ginko in 828 patients with mild to moderate disease who were already on cholinesterase inhibitors. This makes the results of the study that much more interesting. Here’s the details:

  • Patients were followed using the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive (ADAS-Cog) subscale score, and the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) scale.
  • There was a stronger response in the MMSE score after 12-months of follow-up in those using the ginko biloba.
  • While similar improvements were also seen on the ADAS-Cog, these were not as strong.

While the improvements were not life-changing, the fact that there were definite improvements over the use of the drugs alone is a pretty important fact. The damage done to the brain cells in Alzheimer’s dementia is extensive and begins decades before symptoms are recognized. For this reason, I do not believe we will ever be able to reverse Alzheimer’s dementia—the disease is a freight train running.

However, slowing the damage down I believe is very possible. The same interventions that can help prevent Alzheimer’s dementia can also help slow down the process in the brain and hopefully increase longevity. Never a bad thing, especially when the “cost” is something as simple and safe as ginko biloba.

James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.