World Alzheimer’s Day takes place every year on 21 September. It is the focus of World Alzheimer’s Month during the month of September. This year’s campaign will cast a spotlight on the warning signs of dementia, encouraging people to find more information and support. To raise awareness, we wear a purple ribbon during this month. Purple is the colour of forget-me-nots, tiny flowers that symbolize a promise that one will always carry someone in their thoughts. Unfortunately, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s; however, some treatment is available. But the latest studies show that HBOT (Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy) can possibly contribute something more to the patients’ well-being.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia and a specific disease. On the other hand, dementia is not. Although about 30 million people in the world suffer from this disease, Alzheimer’s is not typical for growing old. The majority of people affected by this condition are 65 and older, which shows that age is the most significant known risk factor.
Alzheimer’s slowly changes the part of our brain responsible for learning, resulting in difficulty remembering newly learned information. The deterioration of the brain is gradual and leads to increasingly severe symptoms: forgetting about recent events or conversation, forgetting the names of people or objects, having trouble finding the right word, disorientation, confusion about time and place, mood and behaviour changes, severe memory loss and difficulty speaking.
Fighting The Plaques and Tangles
Scientists believe that two abnormal structures in the brain are responsible for damaging the nerves and causing Alzheimer’s. First are the plaques, deposits of protein fragments called beta-amyloid filling the spaces between nerve cells. The second are tangles. These are fibres of tau protein that build up inside cells. At the moment, the treatment available removes amyloid from the brain, thus reducing the plaque. However, researchers make efforts to discover new methods of preventing or at least slowing down Alzheimer’s.
HBOT to the Rescue
HBOT or Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy is now showing promising results in fighting Alzheimer’s. A recently published Israeli proof-of-concept study indicates that HBOT helps reduce the plaque in the brain. The findings of the breakthrough study were published in the respected journal Aging. Six older men received one-hour HBOT sessions over 90 days. The protocol during this study was the same as AHA Hyperbarics uses and recommends: 2.0 ATA and 60 minutes. As a result of the increased blood flow in specific regions of the brain, the men receiving HBOT showed improved memory, attention, and faster information processing. Although the study was performed on a sample too small to be representative, it gives us some food for thought. Maybe someday, HBOT will be a mainstream therapy for Alzheimer’s – and with great success.
Prof. Uri Ashery explains, “After a series of hyperbaric treatments, elderly patients who were already suffering from memory loss showed an improvement of blood flow to the brain – as well as a real improvement in cognitive performance.”
Prof. Shai Efrati sums up the team’s findings, “By treating the root problem that causes cognitive deterioration with age, we are in fact mapping out the way to prevention. It is likely that hyperbaric medicine can potentially provide the opportunity for living with good brain function without relating to chronological age. The idea is to commence therapy before the onset of clinical symptoms of dementia and before deterioration and loss of extensive brain tissue.”
Study results show elevated blood flow and improved oxygenation in the brain of patients suffering from cognitive impairment. Credit: Tel Aviv University
Retrieved from: https://neurosciencenews.com/hbot-alzheimers-19290/ (30. 9. 2021)
Another study from 2019 also supports these finds. Paul G. Harch and Edward F. Fogarty write about a 58-year-old female who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) which was rapidly progressive in the eight months before initiation of hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). The patient underwent a total of 40 HBOT treatments over 66 days. After 21 treatments, the patient started to report increased activity levels, better mood and ability to do her daily activities. Later she reported better sleep, increased memory and concentration and fewer tremors.
The therapy managed to reverse the patient’s symptomatic decline. In fact, it resulted in up to a 38 % increase in brain metabolism. And what is even more pleasing is that this new level of brain function was retained for 22 months after the treatment. How is this possible? The authors show that HBOT actually targets all four pathological processes of Alzheimer’s disease by affecting microcirculation, reducing plaques and tangles, controlling oxidative stress and reducing inflammation. Dr Harch stated that “HBOT in this patient may be the first treatment not only to halt but temporarily reverse disease progression in Alzheimer’s disease.” And he concluded: “Our results suggest the possibility of treating Alzheimer’s disease long-term with HBOT and pharmacotherapy.”
AHA Hyperbarics has just recently formed an alliance with the company Bariks Health Ltd from Israel and Dr Yeluda Melamed, to work together and bring HBOT to more people. As a result, HBOT can be considered a viable drug-free and non-invasive method to prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. In the end, if our joint efforts help at least one patient with Alzheimer’s, it will be worth it.
You might also be interested in reading this article: How to age beautifully using hyperbaric oxygen therapy