John Bradshaw - Preventing Cognitive Decline - Part 1
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. The Bible says in 3 John, verse 2, "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth". In other words, it's God's will that we prosper not only physically, but spiritually, or you might say, not only spiritually, but physically. Which way would you say it? Clearly, from a biblical point of view, the two are inextricably linked together. We're gonna talk about that today in the context of a lifestyle illness, a disease which is a modern-day scourge, and it's only getting worse. You know people who are affected by it, you might be affected by it yourself, and if you're not, the sad fact is there's a very, very good chance that before too long, you will be. I'm talking about Alzheimer's. My guest today is Dr. Wes Youngberg. He is a lifestyle medicine specialist and clinical nutritionist in southern California. He is also an assistant clinical professor for the schools of medicine and public health at Loma Linda University. I am really glad you've made time to be here today. Dr. Youngberg, thanks for joining me.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: It's good to be here, John.
John Bradshaw: Alzheimer's. I've got to tell you. I'm not scared of cancer. I'm not scared of heart disease. I'm not scared of stroke. I'm scared of this stuff because it seems to strike indiscriminately, and anyone and everyone. I'm bothered by Alzheimer's and dementia. Your book deals with Alzheimer's. Your book is called "Memory Makeover". It is a fascinating book, because in the midst of this terrible thing, it offers hope. Let me ask you first, what's Alzheimer's?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Well, you know, let me actually just read the very first line of chapter 1 in the book, where, you know, a lot of people, you know, don't understand Alzheimer's. I had a, a friend of mine, a neurologist, recently at a conference that we were both speaking at, he says, "You're not telling people that they can actually reverse Alzheimer's, are you"? And I said, "Define Alzheimer's".
John Bradshaw: Right.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: This has been one of the challenges all along, is how do we actually define Alzheimer's? No, we're, we're not saying that you can start here at the advanced to severe Alzheimer's and then totally get rid of it all the way. We're saying that at every stage of dementia, of, of mild cognitive decline, there is a potential to improve that, to begin to reverse that process of cognitive decline. And that's exciting, because up until recently, we have all believed that there's really nothing that can be done.
John Bradshaw: Right. I know you're about to read something from your book about what Alzheimer's is, but I'm already ready to jump ahead. You are saying something that seems to fly in the face of contemporary belief, that is, if you've got it, you've got it; there's really not much you can do about it. Most everybody just accepts, if I've put on weight, maybe I can take it off. If you have diabetes, I can certainly reverse that, as you well know, as you have taught. But this? This is a one-way street. You're saying that's not necessarily so. You better read this...
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yeah. So we are...
John Bradshaw: ...before you ever do.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: So, John, we are at a crossroads right now where, where we're kind of, at a crossroads where there is hope. There is a, there's a tremendous amount of medical literature suggesting that there's things that we can do. There's tests that we can run to figure out what our risk factors are, what we can do about them. Uh, and the more of these risk factors we discover, the closer we get to that tipping point, to the threshold effect where we can actually start healing, rather than progressing in this scourge, as you put it, of cognitive decline. And so, to answer your question specifically, "Alzheimer's disease is" a form of dementia; it's "the most common form of dementia. It is the decline of mental abilities severe enough to interfere with the activities of daily living". That's the bottom line. And so, if we can do something that takes somebody from, from a severe dysfunction in their daily lives and improve their lives so that the husband or the wife have their spouse back, their, I've had a wife, a husband who said, "My wife is now laughing at my jokes again. She's smiling at me. She is talking to me. Five years ago she wasn't even talking to me".
John Bradshaw: I've had a, I remember a man saying to me recently, "I have been mourning the loss of my wife for 20 or 25 years".
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yes.
John Bradshaw: "She's still very much alive".
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yes.
John Bradshaw: "But she's gone," as it were. Okay.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: We're here to give hope even for that individual.
John Bradshaw: Fantastic. Fantastic. So, Alzheimer's, how does Alzheimer's differ from dementia? Give me, give me some definitions here...
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Okay, so...
John Bradshaw: ...or some differences.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: ...dementia is the broader term for cognitive decline that's severe.
John Bradshaw: Yes.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: And, and so, really, you know, a lot of people say, "Well, she didn't, they don't really have Alzheimer's; they have dementia". Well, Alzheimer's represents...
John Bradshaw: Yep.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: ...80 percent of all dementias. It's the number one condition, that is associated with dementia. There is over 20 different classes of dementia, but Alzheimer's is by far the, the, the lion's share of dementia.
John Bradshaw: What happens with Alzheimer's? What, what, what is it? How does it play out in a person's life?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: You know, the, the bottom line, John, is that it, it just changes your ability to function in daily living. So, many of my patients who come to me, their initial concern is, "Man, I'm, I'm fishing for that word, and, you know, I used to, I used to be really bright, and, and that word, I can see it, I know everything about it, I can describe everything, but I don't, I can't pick up that word". So that synapse, that synapse that's in our brain, in our hippocampus that is responsible for that word, is not connected right. It's, it's fragmenting. And so, our job it to kind of help heal that synapse that holds that, that word or that partial memory so that we can start using it again. And that is actually quite possible.
John Bradshaw: So Alzheimer's is forgetfulness?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yeah, it's, that's a big part of it.
John Bradshaw: Okay, what else?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yeah, it's, it's, see, when we think of forgetfulness, most of us are thinking, well, we forgot somebody's name...
John Bradshaw: Amen.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: ...or we forgot what our, what my wife told me yesterday.
John Bradshaw: Oh, amen.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Or, you know, we have to take notes for everything now 'cause we just forget, or even some people are forgetting where they are, right? They're driving along in a familiar road that they've driven on for decades, and they're going, "Oh, wait a minute, where am I"? So, the hippocampus, the part of the brain that's associated with, with taking short-term memories and making them into long-term memories, is also like a GPS. It, it's, it's a locator. It, it tells us where we are in reference to the world around us. And if that part of the brain is starting to atrophy, is starting to become senile, senility is just loss of cells in that area of the brain, and, if that happens, we, we're not gonna be able to do the things that we always took for granted. And that can progress so gradually into... going into the bathroom and not knowing what to do. See? So that's a memory problem as well, okay? And so this can get really bad, so we want to prevent that from ever happening.
John Bradshaw: Okay, what we're going to do, and we, more than likely we'll do this in the next program, we're going to talk about how you can start to reverse this.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Right.
John Bradshaw: So you don't want to miss that. How can you begin to reverse some of these processes and find improvement? But before we get to reversing, let's talk about preventing.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yes. Yes.
John Bradshaw: We don't have long before we go to the first break, but where do we begin with this, to prevent this kind of, to keep the wolf from the door?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Researchers at Loma Linda have actually established that about 90 percent of all Alzheimer's is preventable. So this is good news for those of us who have a family history. My grandfather on my mother's side had Alzheimer's. So, does that have something to say about my future health? Of course it does. It, it gives me clues. It's a red flag, obviously. Wes, you need to be paying attention to this because you, like so many other individuals, could succumb to Alzheimer's. So, so we know from the Adventist health studies and other studies that, that 90 percent of Alzheimer's is preventable, but we have to have actionable steps. We have to be willing to accept that information and then incorporate it into our lives so that we're taking advantage of it.
John Bradshaw: Okay. So, a person's got to be, well, okay, you've got, you've gotta be willing to accept that and incorporate it. Why wouldn't someone be willing to accept that and incorporate?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yeah. Well, uh, I'll tell you one reason. Uh, I'd a, I'd a patient just recently, just a few weeks, tell me, I'd been working with them a year, and we'll talk about this in the next program, where, where she'd reversed her dementia so much that she is now functional. She'd had, she'd had advanced Alzheimer's for over five years before we started, and, but her husband wouldn't give up. And so her husband went to the neurologist, said, "What can I do"? So the neurologist actually referred them to me, and, and so, they've been going to church for this whole year, and other couples, five other couples in that church also have a spouse with severe Alzheimer's, and, and it just gets worse really quick, right?
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Unless you're actually addressing the risk factors that that individual has. So, so after a year now, the other spouses are coming to him, saying, like, "Man, you're so lucky. Your wife is doing so much better. Look at our spouses, man, they're just, they're just progressing rapidly into further severe forms of dementia". And, and so my, my patient, you know, the husband says, "Let me tell you what we did". And, and, and they started talking about diet, and, and immediately their, their affect changed, and they said, "Oh, no, no, no, don't talk to me about diets". Said, "My doctor told me there's nothing that can be done, and I believe my doctor, and so I'm not going to change my diet". And, of course, that's not scientific, because any doctor who's studied nutrition understands that the brain operates based on, well or not well, based on how well, how well you eat. So that's one of the first steps that we use to prevent the process of neural degeneration.
John Bradshaw: And we're going to talk about many other steps as well. My guest is Dr. Wes Youngberg. We're talking about Alzheimer's, and you are discovering today that there is hope. More in just a moment.
John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. My guest is Dr. Wes Youngberg. Currently, there are 5.4 million people in the United States suffering from Alzheimer's. By 2050, that will be 16 million. What's even more dramatic is that around the world by then, there will be 160 millions of people suffering from Alzheimer's, a dreaded and dreadful disease. But Dr. Youngberg is telling us that there is hope and Alzheimer's can be prevented, warded off. Tell me more about this. How do we, what do we do to prevent this? It's a horrible thing.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Well, the first step for all of us, you know, it's been said that, uh, of the 318 million people in the U.S. that were alive in 2012, a full 45 million of us, John, will have Alzheimer's, uh, in our lifetime. So, and that's scary, especially since actually about four times that many of people would have Alzheimer's, but they died from something else before they could actually be diagnosed with Alzheimer's. So, even those of us who don't have the genetic predisposition, the APOE4 mutation that dramatically increases risk for Alzheimer's, even amongst those, 1/2 of us, okay, about 40 to 50 percent, will develop Alzheimer's after age 85, even without the genetic mutation. If we have the genetic mutation, that happens 10 to 20 years earlier. And so, in other words, we're all at risk.
John Bradshaw: Right.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: We all, every single one of us, have significant risk, and so we should be paying attention to the principles of prevention.
John Bradshaw: And everybody realizes that this thing is on the rise. Uh, a generation ago, no one knew anyone suffering from Alzheimer's. Today, everybody knows someone.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yes.
John Bradshaw: Memory care centers have been built left and right.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yes.
John Bradshaw: There's an Alzheimer's unit here and there, and there, and everywhere else. It's growing, growing, growing. So this is something, this is something very seriously we need to look at. And why are we talking it, talking about it on It Is Written? The Bible says that your body is "the temple of the Holy Spirit". So, the more you can do to protect this thing and keep it in a way that honors God and keep it shipshape, the better off you're going to be. Why would you suffer from something you don't need to suffer from, particularly when your body is not your own? We've been "bought at a price". So let's talk about some of these concrete steps for avoiding or preventing Alzheimer's.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: When I was a, when I was a young teenager, the favorite book that I read was called "The Ministry of Healing". And if you haven't read that book, I encourage the, the, the viewers of this show to get that book. I'm sure they can get it right from here. And it, the book basically outlines the major foundational principles of lifestyle medicine, what we can do to optimize our health right now, even before we even understand we have risk. It begins with optimizing nutrition. It begins by not, not just, not just thinking that we're eating healthy, because, you know, we're comparing ourselves to what somebody else eats, but to, to ask the question, what is actually best for me right now? And that begins with just getting a lot of colors. You know, so if we had to simplify this to one principle, it's get lots of colors, lots of greens, lots of reds, lots of blues. Not Skittles, Fruit Loops, and...
John Bradshaw: Right.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: ...and lollipops.
John Bradshaw: Right.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Those are colorful, but those are artificial colors, right? We want to get, colors that come to us from nature. Those very colors, John, those very pigments are actually the phytochemicals that turn your genes on or off, that activate your genes, either promoting disease or turning off, the genes of disease. So, the, the right colors from the right foods will literally turn the healing genes on and turn the disease genes off.
John Bradshaw: Here's what's really interesting about this, is that we're talking about a destructive disease, a rampant disease, and it's becoming more rampant. We're talking about how to prevent it, and, and you haven't, you haven't said you need to get this chemical or this drug; you've gone real simple. This is going to strike a lot of people as being just way too simple.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Well, it's so simple the researchers actually have proven this over and over and over again. The researchers at Chicago Rush Institute have, have discovered years ago that just people, elderly, who get two cups of green leafy vegetables a day, you know, how many people do that? But if they do that, they have a brain health that's at least five years younger than their peers.
John Bradshaw: Mm.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: So it dramatically staves off, it slows down the progress that normally leads to dementia over time.
John Bradshaw: And let's be honest, I don't, I don't want to be indelicate about it, but I guess I might be. The standard American diet is...garbage.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: That's why they call it "SAD," Standard American Diet.
John Bradshaw: Standard American Diet.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: It is very sad.
John Bradshaw: I think if most people, most people stopped and looked, we'd be saying, "Mm, the truth is my diet's not what it ought to be". I think perhaps we don't realize the unfortunate results of going down that road. Maybe we don't realize there's gonna be payday someday if we don't do something about our diet. So, so leafy green vegetables and lots of colors. What else would you recommend?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yeah. You know, the key is basically colorful fruits, but the, but the base of a brain-healthy diet is lots and lots of the non-starchy green leafys, colorful vegetables, and colorful fruits, like blueberries.
John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Lot of good research on how organic blueberries, in particular, are really good for the brain. Nuts, seeds, are extremely beneficial. Avocados are very beneficial. Olives are especially beneficial. Olives are known to have a chemical called oleocanthal in them that literally block the toxins that damage the brain and, and help those cells, those brain cells continue to grow like they should, and the new brain cells that we're all developing every day actually can, can survive long enough if we're using these natural foods on a daily basis.
John Bradshaw: Now, what I'm going to do in just a moment, I'm going to ask you, to talk to me about what you've seen. Well, there are other things that we can do to prevent Alzheimer's as well, and, and Alzheimer's, uh, under that cover-all banner of dementia, there are other things we can do, you'll tell me about those, but I also want to hear about the evidence. Bob did this, Bob was here, Bob did this, Bob is now here. So, in a moment we'll find out that this absolutely really does work. Back with more with Dr. Wes Youngberg in just a moment.
John Bradshaw: Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. My guest is Dr. Wes Youngberg, whose new book is "Memory Makeover," talks about preventing and even reversing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Jesus said He came to the world that we "might have life" and "have it more abundantly," and you and I both know there's not much abundance in a life that is riddled by some of these really difficult diseases. Dr. Youngberg, we've talked about the importance of diet in preventing Alzheimer's. Give me one, two, three, four, however many, uh, more steps there might be or things we can do to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer's.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Yeah, so we can not only prevent, and to clarify, we're talking about reversing cognitive decline.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Beginning to reverse that process, seeing visible, functional physiologic evidence that people can get better.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: So, so the, the key principle is that we start out with nutrition. There's a lot, we could spend hours talking about how to optimize nutrition, but there's some basic principles there, and we just need to use common sense, but then we need to focus on healthy foods, foods that are rich in nutrients, things that we can grow in the soil. We need to eat a lot more of those foods. Uh, number two is exercise. There is little doubt; in fact, some of the best evidence is that's the very first thing that we should take advantage of. You know, some of us are really caught in a, in a, with a big challenge with diet, and we're really struggling, and it, it's hard to have the willpower to actually eat a healthy diet. So, maybe the very first thing, John, that we should be focusing on is getting on a, a reasonable but consistent daily exercise program.
John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: So, exercise not only makes us feel better, so we're better able to make good decisions, right? But, and, and start taking advantage of the other strategies, it actually makes us sleep better, and when we sleep better, we also make a lot better decisions. Uh, so, but exercise specifically stimulates the, the glial cells in the brain. These are the structural immune cells in the brain that can release a hormone-like substance called BDNF, or brain-derived neurotrophic factor. I've, I've heard you talking about this on, on other shows in this program, and, and this BDNF literally heals brain cells. It literally heals the synapses that hold the memories that are not plugged into, into the proper connections. And so when we, when the brain is able to produce more of this hormone, the brain heals, and we're able to remember better. We're able to have better cognition. Well, exercise just happens to be one of the, if not the most powerful, strategy that we know of, in the medical literature, to stimulate this process.
John Bradshaw: Does, sleep have any part to play in this?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: It has such a big part that if we don't figure out sleep properly, we're going to be sliding in this progression of cognitive decline for the rest of our lives, uh, and, and if we, and if we're already noticing cognitive decline, if we don't figure out the sleep, sleep problem, we're going to slide faster.
John Bradshaw: There are people who say, "I can get by on four hours a night". Can they really?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: No. No. I, I can tell you, case study after case study, unless somebody gets a good night's rest, uh, they're, they're on their way towards cognitive decline.
John Bradshaw: Are there other steps people can take to improve their, cognitive function?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: One of the simplest things is just drink enough water. You know, the way our body is wired, the way our, our feelings are wired, we don't realize that we're dehydrated most of the day and night. And so, you can't operate by your feelings when it comes to health. We need to be in touch with our feelings, but if you only drink water or eat or sleep when you feel like it, you're in trouble. You're, you're on the way toward some serious health complications. And so, what I suggest to my patients is that when they first wake up, that one of the first things they do is drink between 16 and 20 ounces of water. So I actually go downstairs and take some filtered water, put it on the stove, and heat it up, and then I add some little organic lemon on it, so I have my, my mug of warmed hot water...
John Bradshaw: Man, I'm glad I'm in good company.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: ...and drink that down.
John Bradshaw: I do exactly the same thing. Except no lemons are harmed in the preparation of my water.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: You don't have to have lemon.
John Bradshaw: Otherwise, same.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: So, so, when we wake up, everybody's horribly dehydrated. Just a one-percent decrease in your body weight because of dehydration already is affecting cognition in a dramatic way. You're not making good decisions. You may, instead of talking nicely to your spouse, you're talking roughly. It, it's amazing how just a, a good drink of water can change your disposition in life.
John Bradshaw: Mm-hmm.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: So make sure you're hydrated properly first thing in the morning. Try to get that about 20 minutes before breakfast, and then at mid-morning and mid-afternoon, those are the second and third most important times to get your water. Even if you have to set your smartphone for 10 o'clock and 3 o'clock, make sure you get that water, 'cause it you don't, you're impaired mentally, physically.
John Bradshaw: I think I could answer this question myself, but I would prefer that you do it. So someone goes to the physician and says, "You know, I, I really wanna try to fight back this thing. I'm gonna, I'm gonna eat well and drink well and exercise and get more sleep," and, and so forth. I can just imagine, and, and I don't mean this in a cynical sense, but I can imagine certain individuals in the medical community saying, "It's not that easy. It's not that simple. We have medication," and so forth. Because there's a, there's a certain culture that's very much wired that way. Not everybody. What do you say to that person who might get some push-back? Or what do you say to that physician perhaps who might be thinking, "No, we, we know better than this"?
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Well, actually I spend quite a bit of my time lecturing to doctors at conferences on this topic. And, fortunately I'm getting a lot of positive feedback...
John Bradshaw: Mm, good.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: ...from many doctors in the medical community, because, you know, if, if you're a doctor, and you really care for your patient, you're always looking for something that's reasonable. And so, you know, patients, depending on their level of cognitive decline, um, we need to start at the most fundamental place. And so there may be various medicines or other strategies that we need to introduce at a certain point, if somebody has progressed in their dementia. But regardless of what else we do medically, if we don't address the fundamentals, pretty much everything else we do is not going to work very well.
John Bradshaw: Okay, sure.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Almost guaranteed. So when we take care of the fundamentals, it can be a dramatic factor in preventing that slide into dementia.
John Bradshaw: I appreciate you taking the time to give us hope. He's Dr. Wes Youngberg, and his book is "Memory Makeover: How to Prevent Alzheimer's and Reverse Cognitive Decline the Natural Way". And we'll talk again, because in our next program I want to pick your brains about what it means and what it takes to reverse some of this. So, Dr. Youngberg, thank you, thank you very much.
Dr. Wes Youngberg: Pleasure to be here, John.
John Bradshaw: Thanks.
John Bradshaw: Thank you for remembering that It Is Written exists because of the kindness of people just like you. To support this international life-changing ministry, please call us now at 800-253-3000. You can send your tax-deductible gift to the address on your screen, or you can visit us online at Thank you for your prayers and for your financial support. Our number again is 800-253-3000, or you can visit us online at itiswritten.com.
John Bradshaw: Let's pray together now.
Our Father in heaven, we come in Jesus' name, thanking You today for hope in the midst of real difficulty. We thank You that there is a way out of and even back from some of life's real challenges. And as we apply some of these principles we've learned just now, we look to You to add Your blessing, Your miracle-working power, and restoration. We thank You for life more abundantly in Jesus Christ, and it is in His name we pray, amen.