Natural Health By NHI Newsroom / July 7, 2016 Share Tweet Pin Share The Alzheimer’s Association has just released the latest facts and figures about the state of AD in America: Right now, today, more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. In 2016, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia will cost Americans $236 billion. At this rate, the annual cost could go as high as $1 trillion by the year 2050. The news is discouraging, but it doesn’t mean you have to become a victim. In fact, if you’re reading this blog post, you’re already on the right track. Most people (and most doctors) think nothing can be done about Alzheimer’s disease or most types of dementia. They’re wrong. There’s a great deal you can do to prevent the onset of memory loss in the first place, and to stabilize or reverse it if it’s already started. But beyond my emphasis on sleeping well. . .eating a non-processed, nutrient-rich organic diet… exercising, mentally AND physically… reducing inflammation, stress, and depression…taking brain-protective supplements. . . and staying engaged with friends and family. . . I want to clue you in to new research on exciting and unique alternative therapies that you can use not only with loved ones already suffering from dementia but to protect your own brain, too. Reminiscence Therapy A study published in 2015 in the Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine found that taking strolls down memory lane can increase cognitive functioning and relieve symptoms of depression in elderly people with dementia.1 The practice of reminiscence therapy includes discussing past activities, events and experiences. It can be one-on-one or within a group, and may also include photos, music, old newspaper clippings or radio reports and familiar items from the past. In a clinical setting, a professional therapist might work with a patient to encourage and guide him or her to recount memories in chronological order, evaluate the emotions of the memories, and put together a life story book. Family members are often invited to participate as well.2 While this is a great therapy for people suffering from dementia, it begs the question: Why not start this kind of activity long before one exhibits signs of memory loss? Older folks can get together once a week or so to reminisce… families can spend time with their elderly relatives and talk about the past. One could even create an official group at the local senior center or public library. Since we know socialization and using the neurons that access the memories can help keep the brain plastic (i.e. capable of change and adaptation), I don’t see a need to wait until dementia has set in to start a therapy like this. Light Therapy Light therapy has been used for years to treat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and circadian rhythm and mood disorders. This therapeutic approach uses a shortwave blue UV light to stimulate the subjective human biological clock. This readjusts the body’s natural moods and circadian rhythms, which tell you when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to be awake. Sleep issues and mood swings are a well-documented symptom associated with Alzheimer’s disease and can include evening agitation, restlessness, insomnia and even wandering. In an interesting twist on light therapy, researchers replaced the lightbulbs in the homes of 35 people with Alzheimer’s disease with bulbs that emitted short-wavelength light and were brighter than the original bulbs. After 11 weeks the researchers determined that the bulbs were indeed able to regulate the participants’ circadian rhythms to improve nighttime sleep.3 In March 2016, researchers publishing in the journal Biophotonics and Immune Responses tested light therapy on a mouse model. They found that exposing them to infrared light improved cognitive performance.4 Because light (and sunlight) have been shown to affect mood and ability to sleep, it’s not far-fetched to consider that something as small as changing the lightbulbs to those that mimic daylight and/or have a blue cast can help to keep the brain and circadian rhythms strong. Light boxes and other tools can be purchased for home use. Try These for Treatment or Prevention Other alternative therapies are being used in Alzheimer’s facilities, but could just as easily be implemented either by or for older folks before any signs of dementia appear. These include: Using iPads with simple yet engrossing games and puzzles to keep the brain stimulated. Completing the challenges also provides a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, which can boost mood. Art therapy. Crafting and creating art can be a challenging yet rewarding skill, for everyone. Flexing the creative muscle increases brain plasticity, provides a sense of self-esteem and accomplishment, reduces stress and anxiety and much more. Storytelling. A type of group therapy for dementia patients includes asking members to make up a story based on a picture. This stimulates the brain to work in different and creative ways, blending real-life experiences with imagination. And by the way, this therapy provides a great social outlet. Lack of social interaction is an important cause of dementia. No need to wait for a therapy group to form near you. Form your own, or start spinning yarns to your grandchildren. Don’t wait to take action until the signs of Alzheimer’s disease set in. If we’re going to turn the tide of Alzheimer’s disease, we can’t wait for people in lab coats to save us. We have to take matters into our own hands… and have a little fun doing it. Reminiscence therapy improves cognitive functions and reduces depressive symptoms in elderly people with dementia: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Reminiscence therapy for dementia. Tailored lighting intervention for persons with dementia and caregivers living at home. Studying infrared light therapy for treating Alzheimer’s disease.