“More than 16 million people in the United States are living with cognitive impairment,”
according to a CDC report. While age is the greatest risk factor for cognitive impairment, there are many other contributing elements, such as chronic stress and exposure to toxins. Cognitive impairment may also be caused by Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, stroke, traumatic brain injuries, and developmental disabilities. At this time, there is no cure for many of the diseases and conditions that cause cognitive impairment. The idea that your mind may fail, and nothing can be done to fix it, may be one of the most frightening things we can face.
Is there anything that can be done to prevent or slow cognitive decline?
Are there any promising cures being studied?
While there is not yet a cure, there are treatments for many of the diseases and conditions that cause or contribute to cognitive decline. Unfortunately, many of these treatments only manage the condition and merely slow the rate of cognitive decline or offer mild improvement in brain function. However, there are many preventative measures that can be implemented into your lifestyle. Stem cell therapy may also offer hope in the prevention or treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of Cognitive Impairment
Forgetfulness. Everyone may experience forgetfulness at various times, especially when stressed or as they age, and this is not usually a cause for worry. However, if it is consistent or continually worsening then it is a cause for concern.
Forgetting important events
Frequently repeating the same story or question over and over again
Beginning to have problems finding your way around a familiar environment
Losing your train of thought
Difficulty following the thread of conversations, books, or movies
Feeling overwhelmed by making decisions
Understanding instructions or planning steps to accomplish a task becomes challenging
Changes in mood or behavior, including becoming more impulsive or showing increasingly poor judgment
Although age is the primary risk factor, genetics also play a part in your likelihood of displaying noticeable cognitive decline. Most other risk factors are related to medical conditions or lifestyle. Medical conditions include neurodegenerative diseases, diabetes, stroke, brain injury, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity, depression, vitamin B-12 deficiency, or an underactive thyroid gland. Chronic stress, smoking, physical inactivity, diet, exposure to toxins or pesticides, low education level, and infrequent participation in mentally or socially stimulating activities have all been linked to cognitive impairment.
Prevention and Treatment
Since there are so many possible causes and contributing factors, treatments vary for every patient. At the Temecula Center for Integrative Medicine, we provide in-depth diagnostic testing and use scientifically-based solutions to understand the underlying cause of your cognitive decline and create a personalized, unique care plan for you. Your care plan may incorporate a mix of Functional Medicine, Regenerative Medicine, and Lifestyle Education.
Our Functional Medicine Doctors work to identify the root cause or causes of your symptoms, so we can work with you to heal the causes, not simply treat symptoms. Our Lifestyle Educators partner with you to help you make positive changes that will help you carry out your physician’s health care plan. Regenerative Medicine is also important in treating the root causes of injuries, diseases, and disorders.
How is Regenerative Medicine useful in repairing the brain?
The answer lies in the fact that Regenerative Medicine works to heal by creating functional, living tissue. It repairs or replaces the existing damaged tissue, which often provides healing of the root cause of many diseases and conditions. Stem cell therapy is one of the most promising forms of treatment for an incredibly diverse range of diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, degenerative joint conditions, and brain and nervous system (neurological) conditions.
Many reputable Universities and Medical Centers, such as the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Harvard, USC, and UC San Diego, have entire departments devoted to researching and providing Regenerative Medicine therapies. Hundreds of clinical trials are underway to develop effective regenerative therapies, including stem cell therapy.
Stem Cell therapy is being studied extensively as a treatment for brain conditions, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and dementia. Stem cell therapy has also been studied as a treatment specifically to reverse the loss of cognitive function and improve memory. Clinical trials have shown that stem cell therapy using mesenchymal stem cells (MSC’s) is safe for humans (1).
Clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases are still in early phases. While results in animals have been promising, human trials are not far enough along to know exactly how effective stem cells are in treating these diseases. Scientists are also trying to determine the most effective delivery method, the dose necessary to see results, and how many doses are needed, in addition to a variety of other concerns that must be understood before stem cell therapy could gain FDA approval.
Scientists now believe that neurodegenerative diseases may result from inflammation (2, 3). When MSC’s are delivered systemically, “they are always found to migrate specifically to damaged tissue sites with inflammation (4).” This makes them an optimal choice for the treatment of the inflammation that may create an environment that causes neurodegenerative diseases.
Phase 1 and 2 trials using stem cells in the treatment of ischemic stroke and traumatic brain injury conducted jointly by Pacific Neuroscience Institute and John Wayne Cancer Institute “showed the stem cells were safe and associated with significant motor recovery in patients with chronic strokes.” Researchers are hoping to see extended indications that would include spinal cord injuries and neurodegenerative diseases such as ALS and dementia. They also state that “using stem cell approaches to boost brain function and prevent effects of the aging brain is of interest in maintaining brain health as well.”
The use of stem cell therapies is still awaiting FDA approval and all procedures involving stem cell products are considered experimental and are not approved by the FDA for the treatment of any diseases. However, many practitioners have begun using stem cell therapy for some conditions, since it has been shown to be safe with a very low risk of side effects. Since stem cell therapy helps your own stem cells act healthier and reproduce more quickly, reduce inflammation, and repair or replace damaged tissue, it is useful in improving many conditions. At Temecula Center for Integrative Medicine, we have seen patients with mild cognitive decline gain improvement in brain function through a combination of stem cell therapy and appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes.
While there is not an easy cure for cognitive impairment, research has shown that many lifestyle factors do play a role in cognitive decline and it is never too late to make changes that will increase your brain function. Aerobic exercise, dietary changes, and stress management techniques have been linked to improved brain function. We will help you discover if any medical conditions, lifestyle factors, environmental toxins, or nutrient deficiencies contribute to your symptoms, and partner with you to treat the root cause or causes and make any necessary lifestyle changes.
While many people believe that memory loss, brain fog, and other symptoms of cognitive decline are an inevitable part of aging, there are many things that can be done to slow the aging process of your brain and increase brain function. If you are concerned about the state of your brain, please call us. We would be privileged to partner with you to improve the health of your mind and body.
Jonathan Vellinga, M.D. is an Internal Medicine practitioner with a broad interest in medicine. He graduated Summa cum laude from Weber State University in Clinical Laboratory Sciences and completed his medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin.
Upon graduation from medical school, he completed his Internal Medicine residency at the University of Michigan. Dr. Vellinga is board-certified with the American Board of Internal Medicine and a member of the Institute for Functional Medicine.
1. Borlongan, C.V. (2019), Concise Review: Stem Cell Therapy for Stroke Patients: Are We There Yet?. STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, 8: 983-988. doi:10.1002/sctm.19-0076
2. Deleidi M, Hallett PJ, Koprich JB, Chung CY, Isacson O (2010): The Toll-like receptor-3 agonist polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid triggers nigrostriatal dopaminergic degeneration. J Neurosci. 30:16091–16101.
3. Elmaleh, D. R., Farlow, M. R., Conti, P. S., Tompkins, R. G., Kundakovic, L., & Tanzi, R. E. (2019). Developing Effective Alzheimer's Disease Therapies: Clinical Experience and Future Directions. Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD, 71(3), 715–732. doi:10.3233/JAD-190507
4. Wei, X., Yang, X., Han, Z. P., Qu, F. F., Shao, L., & Shi, Y. F. (2013). Mesenchymal stem cells: a new trend for cell therapy. Acta pharmacologica Sinica, 34(6), 747–754. doi:10.1038/aps.2013.50