My brother and I were hiking a few months after our mom, Carol Peters, died in 2009. We had watched her slow, inexorable decline over the last decade due to Alzheimer’s disease. It had been a tough, sad and painful process.
As we walked along the trail, we discussed whether or not we wanted to get genetic testing to see if we inherited the “Alzheimer’s gene.” I started the hike convinced that, yes, I would get tested. I wanted to know – learning is good, knowledge is power, etc. My brother was less sure. We discussed the possible outcomes, trying to visualize how we would react.
By the end of the hike, we were in complete, emphatic agreement – no way did we want to know. If we learned that we had the gene, we would just be miserable, dreading what was likely to come. There was basically nothing we could do to stop it. The decision was made – no testing. And with that done, I stopped worrying about Alzheimer’s. If it happened, I would deal with it then.
Last year my thinking changed. A random book arrived in the mail, “The End of Alzheimer’s” (Avery, 2017) by Dr. Dale Bredesen. I later found out my other brother, whom I rarely hear from, had ordered it for me without any comment. I set it aside without really looking at it. After a few weeks, I noticed it again, and this time paid some attention to the title.
I was stunned. I read and reread the cover, back cover, comments, author bio. “Was this for real?” I asked myself. I read the entire book and then read it again. The anecdotal claims of slowing and actually reversing the symptoms were very impressive. I researched the author and his work online. I asked friends with medical connections to look into whether this guy was legitimate or just another TV or internet doctor promoting a money-making scam.
After a couple of weeks, I was convinced he was for real. This book offered me – for the first time – hope, and I took it. I have no second thoughts. The fear of going through what my mom had gone through was definitely not gone. When I had decided to not find out about my genetics, I had just buried the concern and fear. Now that fear showed itself in fueling the strongest motivation I have experienced to change my life. I committed totally and absolutely to fighting this disease. I was all in.
Proactive lifestyle changes
I read the book one more time, this time with the intention of following Dr. Bredesen’s protocol as closely as I could. That was one year ago. From that point on, I have sought out all of the information I could on my own genetics. It turns out I have two recessive genes for Alzheimer’s, making me much more likely to get it. I was not overly upset by the bad news. Now I had a plan of action for combating this disease. My commitment just deepened.
I changed my diet dramatically – no added sugar, no grains, no cow dairy, no alcohol, lots of leafy greens, protein and healthy fats. I hired a new doctor, trained by Dr. Bredesen, to coach me. We started the process with lots of testing, followed by tweaks to my diet and behavior. The results for me have been remarkable. After a lifetime of serially losing and gaining back weight on various diets, I had changed. Not once have I wavered from this Bredesen protocol. I immediately began losing weight, eventually losing more than a quarter of my weight. I am now a completely different shape. My body is much healthier.
One small anecdote that reflects this is that I remained healthy the entire year while family members went through numerous colds. I don’t remember that ever happening. More importantly, my brain feels considerably sharper. I have fewer embarrassing lapses of my mind going blank when talking to others. In fact, I and other close friends are often impressed with details I do remember now.
Whether or not I end up getting my mom’s disease, I am so happy to be actively fighting for my health. I love my new life. This may be my favorite stage of life. I look forward to all of my meals, my daily hikes with my dog, working at the high school and seeing my grandkids. I know that I still may get the disease, or maybe I never was going to get it. Dr. Bredesen’s work may not be the answer. Still I will regret nothing about the changes I have made regardless of my outcome. For now, I believe it is my best chance. I turned 65 this year. We noticed changes in my mom when she was 70.
Alzheimer’s likely begins decades before symptoms are noticeable. I am glad I read this book when I did. I do feel a bit on my own in this pursuit and would love to find others who are on the same path. Let me know if you are interested in joining a community of Bredesen followers.
My one wish? I wish mom could have seen me thin. It would have made her day.
Anne Battle is a Los Altos resident. You can reach her via email at [email protected]