Memory Loss,Cognitive Decline and Dementia
The mysterious biological process of "Memory" is required for a multitude of essential, life-sustaining physiological processes. Well recognized examples include nuclear DNA remembering your genetic information, immune system cells (B-lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes, etc.) required to remember important immune information essential for survival, and the Autonomic Nervous System (Sympathetic/Para-sympathetic or Reptilian nervous system) remembering to keep your heart beating, lungs breathing (even during sleep and coma states) and not allowing one to commit suicide by holding their breath. If any of these essential "Memory" functions fails disease and death are the result. Thus, the physiologic and regulatory process of biological Memory is essential to sustaining Life itself. Interestingly, each of the previously mentioned examples of memory occurs below the level of our conscious awareness... or consciousness. For this reason, the "clinical" definition of "Memory" has been "academically" limited to what has come to be called "cognitive" or "noetic" Memory function. As used in clinical medicine the term "Memory" is limited to a specifically defined cognitive function of the physical brain. The concept of Mind has never really been recognized by modern medical science. Since Mind has no known physical or biochemical existence, medical science ignores "Mind" and concentrates on the electro-physio-chemical reality of the physical "Brain". But it should be obvious to even the most unsophisticated that the concepts of memory and mind are essentially inseparable.
As the "baby boomer" generation begins their 7th decade the prospect of physical and mental decline looms ever larger for the "rebel 1960's" generation. The physical health of the "boomers" is clearly superior to preceding generations. Some reasons for these physical health gains are obvious (less smoking, seat belts, more exercise, etc.) and some are presumed, but not really "proven" (better pharmaceutical and surgical care). Life expectancy continues to increase, with males beginning to gain on females, but the overall rate of increase in life expectancy appears to be slowing, at least in the U.S. On the other hand, certain aspects of chronic disease and health, so-called "age-related decline", are increasing... chronic cardiovascular diseases (especially in women), many types of cancer and memory loss-mental-cognitive decline and dementia. In fact, as the "baby boomers" approach their golden years statistical predictions for serious mental functional decline ("dementia") approach projections of 30 to 50% by the time the boomers reach their 80's. This is indeed a frightening statistic. There is currently no known treatable cause or medical cure for cognitive decline, dementia or memory loss. The best medical science has to offer for these conditions are pharmaceuticals that simply treat symptoms, but they do not cure the underlying condition. And despite billions being spent on research there is no pharmaceutical or drug "miracle cure" in the foreseeable future. However, despite this rather bleak outlook, there are clinical preventive and/or interventional actions that can be taken to help this situation.
Several theoretical mechanisms have been proposed for declining memory and mental function. The use of pharmaceutical drugs simply addresses one part of the overall process. In addition to the defective neurotransmitter theory (Acetyl-Choline) addressed by pharmaceutical drugs, there are other pathological processes associated with memory loss-mental-cognitive decline and dementia that occur and are not addressed by drugs. Included among these are the buildup of abnormal proteins (ß-amyloid, Tau), structural changes (Alzheimer neurofibrillatory tangles) and functional cardiovascular (decrease blood flow and brain perfusion) problems. There is ample scientific evidence for the validity of each of these other theories. Unfortunately, the only evidenced-based treatment option available now and in the near future is pharmaceutical drugs that merely symptomatically correct neurotransmitter deficiency. However, by applying an Integrative Medicine approach that addresses multiple causative mechanisms simultaneously the clinical result may be superior to using a single modality. Integrating structural, biochemical and functional (regulatory) theories to prevent, delay, slow and reverse memory loss simply makes sense given the high number of potential victims and the devastating clinical result if the condition is left to progress and untreated. In addition, by using an Integrative Medicine approach instead of simply palliating symptoms the underlying causal mechanism(s) of memory loss, cognitive decline and dementia may more effectively be addressed.