Is Alzheimer’s a Myth?

Jan 22, 2018

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This week we interview another leading scientist and author who views Alzheimer’s as a more complicated process than one simple disease.
Our guest, Dr Peter Whitehouse, is an MD, PhD trained at Johns Hopkins and currently is a professor of Neurology at Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio. He authored the book, The Myth of Alzheimer’s

In this Episode You Will Learn:

Dr Whitehouse does not deny that Alzheimer’s exists he just maintains that it is a condition with tremendous heterogeneity and is more like a syndrome, or a collection of multiple disorders. These may be characterized as a spectrum of disorders.

Dr Whitehouse notes that is very difficult to distinguish senile dementia – brain changes that occur over the result of time – and dementia.

He notes some of the key drivers of Alzheimer’s of earlier onset being. 1) genes 2) concussions 3) environmental toxins (eg lead) 4) diet 5) exercise 6) infections (meningitis) 7) perhaps low oxygen states during surgery/anesthesia.

Dr White discusses the controversy in the title of his book “the Myth of Alzheimer’s” and how it was received. He disagrees to some extent with the conventional approach to finding a cure for Alzheimer’s advocated by the NIH and Alzheimer’s Association’s view. The prevailing view is very much geared toward finding a single drug or set of drugs that will attack the problem.

We discuss “Scientism,” the faith in science based on ‘pumping enough money into a proble’ that Dr Whitehouse takes issue with. More and more he has adopted the idea that public health measures and intergenerational relationships are a key to successful aging and minimizing symptoms of cognitive impairment. A lot of this focuses on personal narratives, telling one’s own stories, either through a journal or organizations like Storycorps or Timeslips. He tells stories about elders passing on stories of activism to younger generations. Reminiscence “therapy” is one modality he mentioned.

He explains why he thinks the Babyboomer generation may have the collective power to work with other generations to evolve the conversation about aging and Alzheimer’s.

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3 Comments

  1. MrsMackin

    I found this book years ago after I was diagnosed with younger onset alzheimer’s. My father had it and his mother and neither suffered horribly as is generally thought by the american public.
    People have hard deaths from many things, it is not implicit in this condition or disease.
    Eventually I found CBD oil (as in the RSO version, not the clear liquid sold in head shops), restored my ability to do things, even math. I take cbd oil am and pm and now feel good. Losses continue but I am not anxious and I sleep 7 hours a night.

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  2. Mary L. Radnofsky, Ph.D.

    Dr. Whitehouse should be applauded as for his prescience in recognizing the complexity of what has been too often labeled simply “Alzheimer’s Disease.” Dementia, especially early-onset (mine began at age 47, and I’m now 59), has to be caused by much more than medical abnormalities in the body that will be “cured” by some future magic bean created by big pharma.

    His understanding (and his courage to say out loud) that environmental toxins, general anesthesia, diet and lifestyle, and sports causing head trauma are triggers for dementia-causing diseases is not what people want to hear, because it means we are in part responsible for the damage. But it’s what we need to know so we can change the way we monitor and manage our health, take better care of our planet and live with each other.

    Dr. Whitehouse is one of the rare MD/PhD philosopher-scientists who does not claim that the only answer is better living is through chemistry, but that it matters greatly how we interact with each other – not just to survive as a species or to extend the length of our lives, but more importantly, to improve the quality of the lives we have. Excellent interview.

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  3. Paul Ernsberger, Ph.D.

    I recently re-read Peter’s 2008 book “The Myth of Alzheimer’s” and I was struck at how many of his predictions have come true. Clinical trials of agents to reduce amyloid plaques and tau tangles have not been effective, just as he proposed 10 years back. My mother was recently diagnosed and she is relatively happy in her memory care facility. The idea that Alzheimer’s is always an agonizing death is indeed a myth. Waiting for your next book Peter!

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