No one is immune from dementia – not even royal families

A photo of Prince Henrik in 2010. Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa-3.0) 

 

The Danish TV news this evening is focusing on the fact that Prince Henrik, who is the husband of the Danish Queen Margrethe, has been diagnosed with dementia, namely Alzheimer’s disease. It is, of course, terrible news. He is 83 years old. I do not think that the majority of Danes are entirely surprised by this news because he has been saying some bizarre things publicly in recent months.

Dementia is widespread

The TV news has decided to focus on Alzheimer’s: in Denmark, we have a national centre for knowledge about dementia and, of course, the Alzheimer’s Association. In interviews with leading persons from these organisations, we learn that between 75,000 and 100,000 people in Denmark have dementia, of which 50 to 65,000 have Alzheimer’s disease. Neither of the interviewees indicated that anything could be done to cure Prince Henrik of his ailment.

They also interviewed relations of those who have had Alzheimer’s disease and these people, of course, expressed sympathy with the Royal Family in the struggle they will have in the future months, maybe years, with a loved one who is declining in cognitive ability.

People are rightly scared of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

This focus on Alzheimer’s disease has the effect of making Danes very aware of it. The estimate is that there are about 8500 new cases every year. Just like AIDS in the 80s, people are terrified of this disease because there are no treatments to reverse the symptoms of this terrible disease. The question is, is this true? I will come back to that later.

My wife is a district nurse. She visits the homes of those with dementia every day and says that in a way a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s seems to be worse than a diagnosis of cancer because it is possible to treat cancer on early detection. However, it seems that Alzheimer’s cannot. With Alzheimers, the personality of the person you knew gradually disappears.

This fear of Alzheimer’s disease, and indeed other forms of dementia, means that many people seem to be reluctant to follow up on their suspicions at an early stage. The victims and the relations are simply in denial. But what if it was possible to reverse Alzheimer’s disease if diagnosed early enough?

There is hope, however

In the United States, a doctor by the name of Dale Bredesen has had outstanding results in treating Alzheimer’s disease because he views Alzheimer’s disease as a metabolic disease meaning that if the multifactorial causes are addressed early enough, nutrition for example, then the condition can be reversed.

Now what I’m about to say may sound far-fetched to the layman, but the metabolic nature of Alzheimer’s disease puts it in the same category as type II diabetes and various autoimmune diseases. A course of action which addresses energy acquisition and distribution will have the effect of reversing Alzheimer’s disease as long as it is caught at an early stage when the sufferer is still in a situation to adopt and adapt to certain lifestyle changes.

It is probably not politically correct to say that we know the answer at a time when expert health professionals stand in front of TV cameras implying that there is nothing to do to help Prince Henrik.

Early diagnosis is vital if something should be done to reverse AD

My point is that people who suspect they have signs of cognitive decline and their relations should come forward at an early stage to get a diagnosis and start working on changing lifestyle to reverse the condition. Remember that the pharmaceutical industry has spent billions on trying to find a cure. They probably never will because there are too many factors involved. All they can do is to slow it down.

For all four types of dementia medicine recommended by the Danish National Board of Health, the disease is not stopped, but the development of the symptoms are delayed a little. It has thus become clear that medicinal treatment can not stand alone. In recent years, a significant part of the research on dementia and the recently adopted National Action Plan in Denmark has been about giving patients more physical activity, healthier lifestyles and cognitive stimuli.

If I had to choose for myself or one in my family, the choice would not be difficult.