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Cognitive Wellness Program

Personally, I was not aware of how prevalent Alzheimer’s disease is right now until very recently, and it especially impacts women. As a long-term women’s health advocate, it is my mission to teach women effective strategies to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The sooner we identify risk factors, the better chance we have of prevention. This is now within our reach – the evidence is clear!
- Dr. Shawna Darou

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Program with Dr. Shawna Darou:

I use a combination of naturopathic medicine and functional medicine, in order to bring you the highest quality, most evidence-based care. The Cognitive Wellness Program is built on the work of Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD (author of “The End of Alzheimer’s“), and his ReCODE program which works on prevention, early detection and reversal of early to moderate cognitive decline.

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Alzheimer’s disease is an enormous and growing global issue, with more than 44 million people globally with cognitive decline. Women are at the centre of this epidemic, accounting for 65% of the cases being diagnosed and being 60% of the caregivers involved.

Did you know that if you are a woman, your lifetime chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease is now greater than your risk of developing breast cancer? A woman’s lifetime risk of developing Alzheimer’s is now 1 in 6, compared to her lifetime breast cancer risk of 1 in 8. This is a condition that requires our immediate attention! (1,2,3)

Although in Canada, Alzheimer’s and Dementia are rated the 7th leading cause of death (4), in the UK they are ranked #1 leading cause of death for both men and women (5), ahead of cardiovascular disease and cancer; and in Australia #1 leading cause of death in women (6). This discrepancy from country to country could be due to differences in reporting and categorization (7).

We know many people who have survived cancer, but do you know someone who has survived Alzheimer’s? We have been told that there is nothing that we can do to prevent, reverse or slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.

New research, enormous hope

There is an incredibly effective, and personalized approach to preventing and treating early signs of Alzheimer’s disease based on the 30 years of research by Dr. Dale Bredesen, MD using a “multimodal approach.” What this means is that through understanding both the 6 different subtypes of Alzheimer’s disease, as well as 36 possible mechanisms that can cause neuro-degeneration and the formation of the amyloid plaques and tau tangles associated with the disease, we can in effect reverse the course of disease (891011).

The question then becomes Alzheimer’s due to what? This theory is also known as “the roof with 36 holes”, where we test and assess for factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease and then create a personalized program to treat each of the variables found. This new understanding applies to most chronic diseases, where multiple pathways are involved simultaneously, making a single treatment ineffective.

For example, insulin resistance alone will not cause Alzheimer’s disease, but if we also have a genetic susceptibility with the ApoE4 gene, high homocysteine levels and chronically low vitamin D levels we can find a greatly increased risk. And remember that all of these variables are treatable with the right nutrition plan, the addition of appropriate vitamins and nutrients, regular exercise, and consistently tracking other risk factors.

Alzheimer’s Disease is caused by three possible mechanisms:

 

There has been tremendous research in Alzheimer’s disease and so much is understood now about the mechanisms that create amyloid plaque and tau tangles in the brain. The three main causes are:

  1. INFLAMMATION (triggered internally through foods, stress, or caused by infection).

  2. WITHDRAWAL OF TROPHIC SUPPORT (for example, a drop in hormones such as thyroid hormone, estrogen, testosterone, vitamin D or DHEA).

  3. EXPOSURE TO TOXINS (bio-toxins such as mold and Lyme disease, environmental chemicals, heavy metals).

These three mechanisms give rise to the 6 types of Alzheimer’s disease below.

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Why start as early as your 40’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is a condition with a very long latency time, meaning that the imbalance that creates the cognitive changes may begin as much as 25 years before significant symptoms appear. We can have the greatest impact with a preventative approach – where we test and assess for your personal risk factors: genetics, toxins, infections, leaky gut, insulin resistance, nutrient deficiencies, sleep problems, hormone imbalance, chronically high stress, sleep apnea, markers of inflammation, heavy metal and other toxins.

Dr. Dale Bredesen has coined the term “Cognoscopy” – which is a cognitive evaluation, along with appropriate lab testing to assess your current cognitive status, and possible risk factors.

We have the greatest chance for prevention when we start early, long before symptoms arrive, although Dr. Bredesen and his colleagues are seeing extremely encouraging results in actually reversing mild-moderate Alzheimer’s cases too. In these cases, the protocols are more intensive – very specific prescriptive nutrition plans, regular lab testing to assess progress and risk factors, supplements to address deficiencies, as well as sleep optimization, stress reduction and regular exercise.

There are no quick fixes here, but through careful assessment and preventative plans we are also preventing many other chronic illnesses by optimizing health and overall well-being.

Three points to access this program

About the Cognitive Wellness Program – Integrating Naturopathic & Functional Medicine

1) Prevention

The preventative program is the best place to start, when possible. You may be concerned about reducing your Alzheiemer’s risk based on your family history, knowledge of personal genetics, or general observation of the increased number of cases in recent years.

We aim to assess your personal risk factors with a detailed health intake, and a thorough lab workup including hormones, toxins, inflammation, infections, genetics, blood sugar regulation, and nutrient deficiencies.

From here we put together a personalized long-range prevention plan. Remember that Alzheimer’s disease is a condition with a very long latency period – the sooner you make changes, the better chance we have of prevention.

This is ideal especially for those who have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, but also for anyone who is concerned about optimizing their cognitive wellness. Remember that Alzheimer’s disease is increasing in prevalence each year – you have the power to change your own trajectory.

2) You’ve noticed a change in cognition

If you are noticing subtle changes in cognition – with your memory, data processing speed, ability to learn new skills at work, loss of sense of smell, or other areas, we can certainly assess cognitive changes in detail and look for possible causes with a thorough Functional Medicine intake. You’re likely still functioning well in your life, but have noticed some changes that may be concerning you. This is commonly experienced through menopause, after a period of high stress, or you may be blaming it on aging. Again, this is an ideal time to begin the process of assessment, and take steps to reverse these changes now.

This phase of early changes responds extremely well to the Cognitive Wellness Program described in detail below.

3) You have recently been diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) or early Alzheimer’s disease

This program is suitable for early diagnosis of cognitive issues, and mild cases of Alzheimer’s. (For more severe cases, I will refer for additional services). The structure of the visits and assessments is exactly the same, although the treatment interventions are more intensive.

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What's Next?

If you’re ready to book, please use the following link. Choose the option called

 

“COGNITIVE WELLNESS PROGRAM – INITIAL VISIT.”

Naturopathic and Functional medicine together create a dynamic system of care bringing together a strong foundation in natural health, with the latest science and evidence-based medicine. You can expect a very thorough health assessment, targeted lab testing and the best in integrative health care.

Remember that the Cognitive Wellness Program is fully customized to each individual. The following framework outlines a typical line-up of appointments, but can vary depending on individual need, complexity of your health, and need for support.

This program is suited for all three points of access described above: Prevention; Early Cognitive Changes; Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI); and early Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

You can find the fee schedule for the Cognitive Wellness Program on this page: https://darouwellness.com/bookings/ (scroll down to the ‘Cognitive Wellness Program’).

BEFORE YOUR FIRST APPOINTMENT:

  • You will be sent an in-depth health assessment to complete in advance of your appointment. This intake organizes your health information, events, symptoms and history to map out a detailed health timeline, and populates each of the systems categories above to create the Functional Medicine Matrix.

  • The time spent gathering information and answering the questionnaires will bring you to your first appointment prepared and ready for next steps. Please allow sufficient time to complete this intake form in detail.

  • Please also gather all recent lab testing you have had, including bloodwork, hormone assessment, MRI reports, or others.

 

1) YOUR FIRST COGNITIVE WELLNESS APPOINTMENT:

 

(1st visit – 75 minutes for new patients, 45 minutes returning patients)

  • Detailed overall health assessment based on your current health, past health issues, family history with a focus on cognitive risk factors.

  • Review of your health timeline in detail to see triggers, patterns in your health, and changes with hormone transitions.

  • Specific review of cognitive risk factors and how they fit into the 6 types of Alzhiemer’s Disease.

  • Initiate lab testing. Please note there will likely be significant lab testing to map out your risk factors, and determine our best routes for prevention or reversal.

  • May also include referral for cognitive testing or neurological assessment, sleep study, MRI.

  • Starting your treatment plan: initiating self-care practices as the strongest base for prevention (sleep, stress, exercise, social support).

2) PERSONALIZED NUTRITION PLAN

 

(2nd visit – 30 minutes)

  • An appointment 100% dedicated to your personalized nutrition plan.

  • Targeted to address personal risk factors – blood sugar metabolism, detoxification pathways, hormone optimization, inflammation, gut health, activity level and current cognitive function.

  • You will be provided with nutrition guidelines, menu plans, recipes and resources.

 

3) REVIEW OF FINDINGS

 

(3rd visit – 1 hour duration)

  • Thorough review of all lab assessments and how they fit into your treatment plan.

  • Integration with Functional Medicine Matrix – mapping out your current health, susceptibilities and family history.

  • Categorizing your risk factors in the 6 types of AD development to direct our treatment plan = this is your roadmap to cognitive wellness

  • Initiating your full treatment plan, addressing inflammation, hormones, infections, toxins, lifestyle factors and more.

  • Treating cognitive wellness is different from my regular practice, in that we initiate treatment in as many areas as possible right away. If there are 12 areas out of balance, we may not reach a tipping point of improvement unless we treat 8 of them, because they all work synergistically.

  • You can expect a full treatment protocol with explanations for each intervention – lifestyle changes, nutritional supplements, using food as medicine, and targeted treatments for infections, toxins, gut health, hormones and more.

 

4) SELF-CARE AND EMOTIONAL WELLNESS

 

(4th visit – 30 minutes)

  • The base of every single Cognitive Wellness Program is self-care: personalized nutrition, sleep optimization, stress reduction and relaxation practices, regular exercise, and community and social support. We need to regularly revisit these areas because they are most important to sustain your progress.

  • Checking in with emotional wellness – self-compassion, addressing fear and anxiety, making changes with kindness, preventing overwhelm.

  • You can expect resources for support in any areas of self-care where you need assistance: sleep optimization, guided meditations, stress-management resources and more, targeted exercise programs and more.

 

5) CONTINUING THE PROGRAM

(Follow-up visits are booked every 8 weeks or so, until we reach a maintenance phase. Visit length is 30 or 45 minutes, depending on required time for interventions).

  • Re-testing lab markers to check on progress of interventions.

  • Adjust treatment plan: nutrition, supplements, exercise, hormones, and possible referrals. Adapting your plan to life-changes: hormone transitions like menopause, acute stresses, travel, illness, and also simplifying your plan as cognition improves.

  • Answer questions regarding your personalized program, and troubleshooting.

  • Continuing to support and coach you with self-care practices.