How Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy can help Prevent, Delay and Treat Alzheimer’s Disease.

 Alzheimer’s disease was first ‘discovered’ and described in 1906, but not recognized as a common cause of dementia and death until the 1970s. We know a lot more about it now, but on-going research has not yet determined the cause, or a cure. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA),more than 5.5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s and it may be the third leading cause of death for older people in America, after heart disease and cancer. 

Our understanding of the disease is moving from one based on symptoms (memory loss, confusion) to one based on brain changes like beta-amyloid deposits and tau protein levels. It is believed that changes in the brain begin 20 – 30 years before the symptoms of Alzheimer’s dementia are apparent.

Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease :

  • preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, a stage after brain changes have begun but before symptoms are present;
  • MCI due to AD, a stage characterized by both brain changes and mild cognitive symptoms that do not significantly affect everyday living; 
  • dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, a stage with brain changes and significant memory, thinking and behavioral problems that interfere with an individual’s daily life
  • in the severe stage of the disease, Alzheimer’s effects on physical health become debilitating. 
  • Alzheimer’s disease is ultimately fatal. 

The latest  Alzheimer’s Association Report, describes the stages of Alzheimer’s this way:

 “Individuals with Alzheimer’s experience multiple symptoms that change over a period of years. These symptoms reflect the degree of damage to neurons in different parts of the brain. The pace at which symptoms advance from mild to moderate to severe varies from person to person. In the mild stage, most people are able to function independently in many areas but are likely to require assistance with some activities to maximize independence and remain safe. They may still be able to drive, work and participate in favorite activities. 

In the moderate stage, which for some is the longest, individuals may have difficulty performing routine tasks, become confused about where they are and begin wandering, and start having personality and behavioral changes, including suspiciousness and agitation. In the severe stage, individuals require help with basic activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing and using the bathroom. Eventually, their ability to verbally communicate is limited. 

It is in the severe stage of the disease that the effects of Alzheimer’s on an individual’s physical health become especially apparent. Because of damage to areas of the brain involved in movement, individuals become bed-bound. Being bed-bound makes them vulnerable to conditions including blood clots, skin infections and sepsis, in which infection-fighting chemicals in the bloodstream trigger body-wide inflammation that can result in organ failure. Damage to areas of the brain that control swallowing makes it difficult to eat and drink.”

Why does HBOT help?

HBOT has been called the oldest gene therapy known to man. Under hyperbaric medical conditions it has been found that the healing takes place at the DNA level. 

 “Hyperbaric oxygen therapies through increases in pressure and oxygen are acting at the epigenetic level to express and suppress genes” ~ Townsend Letter April 2018

Epigenetics is the study of changes in organisms caused by modification of gene expression rather than alteration of the genetic code itself. (HBOT won’t affect whether you have the APOE-e4 gene or another of the 20+ genes that have been associated with Alzheimer’s risk.)  

HBOT has been found to up-regulate and down-regulate certain genes, turning them “on” or “off”. 

Research shows the largest clusters of upregulated genes were the anti-inflammatory genes and those that coded for growth and repair hormone, and the largest clusters of downregulated genes were the pro-inflammatory genes and apoptotic genes. In other words, hyperbaric oxygen generically treats the underlying conditions that are responsible for dementia and many other neurological and chronic diseases to reverse pathophysiology and stimulate tissue growth. 

A recent Forbes article puts it this way: “HBOT is an “epigenetic modulation of gene expression and suppression to treat wounds and disease pathophysiology, particularly inflammation.” 

By definition, modulation of epigenetic mechanisms enables the alteration of cellular phenotype (the set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment) without altering the genotype (part of the genetic makeup of a cell, and therefore of an individual, which determines one of its characteristics).  

HBOT can help at any stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

In the “Preclinical” stage, HBOT can serve to increase circulation, decrease inflammation and repair the every-day minor damage to the brain that we expect from normal aging. This may prevent or significantly delay the degeneration that leads to the moderate stage – Mild Cognitive Impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease (MCI due to AD).

HBOT has been shown to reverse symptoms of MCI (from a variety of causes, “Mild Cognitive Impairment” can be a symptom of many other conditions) in numerous studies. This may be the most critical and beneficial period for the application of HBOT for a number of reasons. Despite recent medical advances around diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s early stages, it’s not an exact science yet. Usually by the time of diagnosis, the disease has progressed for a decade or more and has begun a cycle of secondary processes that might not be modifiable. 

A very strong argument for HBOT in the moderate stage – even before a diagnosis – is that the degenerative processes can be interrupted before they reach the severe stage. HBOT acts at the epigenetic level to alter gene expression and suppression of over 40% of all of our protein-coding genes, including the beta amyloid and tau proteins involved with Alzheimer’s.

HBOT targets the four pathological processes of AD identified in recent research by affecting the microcirculation mitochondrial dysfunction and biogenesis, reducing amyloid burden and tau phosphorylation, controlling oxidative stress, and reducing inflammation. 

Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy right for you? Call 585-426-8969 or visit us at Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy of Western New York  We’d love to answer any questions you might have.