I received an offer to ask a few questions about the dementia expert John DenBoer who is behind a documentary on Netflix on dementia's premiere Thursday (April 11, trailer below).
I published the trailer below. I didn't see the documentary. I will say in advance that I am pleased that the doctor is inspired to push more awareness after his experience as a caretaker with his beloved grandmother.
I'm still a bit unsure that there is no more specific discussion of Lewy disease, but I haven't seen the film yet. If there is an internal medical debate about what the body of Lewy is or even if it exists – some doctors say it is a different type of Parkinson's we go all the way to study it properly. DenBoer indicates "vascular" as a top type of dementia – as well as Lewy. All are in agreement that Alzheimer's is number 1.
He was in agreement with my concern about – and I have already said – a lack of awareness could hurt Lewy's body search for research dollars. A lack of awareness spreads throughout the entire system. From the patient who is unable to obtain a correct diagnosis for the patient equipped with a brain stimulator that can be contraindicated for his particular type of disease.
We need more doctors like DenBoer to continue asking these questions and, in the meantime, help push non-invasive brain exercises to suppress symptoms. He is also focusing on early diagnosis which I think may be the first most important step towards treatment. The more time we will have to study these patients and treat them with their closest drugs or brain exercises we will get.
Here is DenBoer with answers to 8 questions from me via email.
How did you get interested in the study of dementia?
It was really the synthesis of a difficult personal situation (my grandmother, with whom I had a special relationship, development of dementia) and my professional research in the study of geriatric neuropsychology. These two things coincide, which galvanized my personal and professional mission to help people with dementia. My main emphasis is to do this through the early identification and mitigation of cognitive and functional decline.
Tell me about the Netflix documentary and what are some of the themes?
The documentary is titled "This is dementia". Describes my relationship with my grandmother, my relationship with my patients and my research to influence this terrible disease. I feel that this is a realistic but promising representation of the effect the disease has on people and their families.
There seems to be confusion about the types of dementia. I have Lewy body dementia, sometimes called dementia with helpless bodies. Can you briefly describe the differences in the types of dementia?
Dementia is a generic term to describe the general neurodegeneration of the brain. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia, although vascular forms of dementia are also very common. Lewy body dementia can also be quite common. What makes this more complicated is that there are actually no pure forms of dementia – all are generally combinations of one another.
What are the most promising areas of research for drugs to stop or slow the progression of the disease?
Unfortunately, research in the area of drugs was not very promising. By far the best way to slow down the disease is a combination of aerobic and cognitive exercise. The drugs have been found to work with less than 5% effectiveness.
Unfortunately, there is nothing we know to stop the disease completely.
My concern after learning of my diagnosis was that there was little awareness of Lewy body dementia, although my understanding is that it is the second main type of dementia after Alzheimer's. This worries me because if people don't know they won't get proper treatment – like Robin Williams who had Lewy body.
Unfortunately, there is very little awareness of all types of dementia. We know of Alzheimer's disease, although other forms of dementia (such as the vascular and Lewy bodies) are forms that are not as well known. Our job as suppliers is to educate primary care providers about the important role they play in screening elderly individuals and direct them to neuropsychologists and neurologists to perform more in-depth tests.
It also affects me with Lewy that his lack of visibility will lead to less money for research than Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. Thoughts on that?
You may be right, unfortunately. When people think of dementia they usually think only of Alzheimer's dementia. Honestly, I think this is a failure on the part of our national organizations (eg, L & # 39; Alzheimer & # 39; s Association) to educate and adequately promote the awareness of other (equally important) forms of dementia.
Any idea what causes various types of dementia?
There are as many different causes of dementia as there are types. Each type of dementia has a distinct etiology. The commonality of all of them is degeneration (ie the shrinkage) of the brain. New and new learning can help mitigate this decline (www.brainuonline.com).
What should people do first if they suspect that they or a loved one might have dementia?
The key is to recognize it as soon as possible, before they have dementia or mild cognitive impairment. MCI develops 5-7 years earlier, before the early beginnings of dementia. When people have obvious symptoms of dementia, the mitigative possibilities of the disease are greatly reduced. Generally, we can slow the decline associated with the disease if people are in phase 2 or less.
If people suspect that they or their loved one may have dementia, my suggestion would be to immediately introduce them to a neuropsychologist. In general, the visit is covered by Medicare / insurance. They will undergo an assessment of 2-4 hours which will evaluate memory, attention / concentration, etc. The neuropsychologist will tell if there is a suspicion of mild cognitive impairment or dementia. If it is, a visit to a geriatric neurologist is justified; a brain MRI may be required. All this information will be used to make a diagnosis of MCI or dementia.
A simple explanation of Lewy's body:
The dott. John DenBoer is a dementia researcher in the United States and the creator of Smart Brain Aging (http://www.smartbrainaging.com/) – a society that helps delay the onset of dementia and reduce its severity, through a science-supported brain training program. Dr. DenBoer was inspired to become an expert in the field after his grandmother was diagnosed. To see www.smartbrainaging.com for more information.