Susan’s Story: Confronting Alzheimer’s Disease
by Zara Jethani
Several years ago, in 2015, Susan wrote a letter.
She gave this letter to a friend and asked her to share it with everyone when the time came that she had dementia. In the letter she said that she wanted her husband to divorce her and to find a new partner. She wanted all of her friends and her children to know that this was her desire and for them to support her husband in this process. “I knew he would always love me and make sure I was taken care of, but this was also my way of loving and taking care of him. I did/do not want him to sacrifice his life like my father had done when my mother was lost to Alzheimer’s disease (AD). I wanted him to continue to live his life fully and to find a new love to share his life,” she said.
Stopping History from Repeating Itself
Susan had watched the heart-wrenching journey of her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease and how it had affected her parents. She did not want the same thing to happen in her family.
“After my mother had passed away from Alzheimer’s I began noticing my memory was slipping, even though I was only in my late 50’s,” said Susan.
At first she noticed that it was simply struggling to find the right word or name. But then her memory became progressively worse.
Confronting Cognitive Decline
When she found herself struggling to write her own children’s names, she decided to be proactive and find out if she was genetically predisposed to getting Alzheimer’s disease with the ApoE protein genetic marker implicating disease.
Susan sought out David Merrill, MD, PhD, an adult and geriatric psychiatrist specializing in healthy aging and cognitive decline, at Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, California.
When Susan met with Dr. Merrill, she discovered that she had a 30% chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
He set her on a protocol which included necessary supplements, and exercise. “I was introduced to Dr. Dale Bredesen’s research on reversing the decline of Alzheimer’s. My memory began to improve. I had a 30% risk factor, but now fortunately, because of PNI and Dr. Merrill I am now on an incredible journey towards INCREASING MY ODDS to be one of the 70% who does not collapse into this abyss.”
Treatment at Pacific Neuroscience Institute
At the Pacific Brain Health Center at PNI, the brain health team provides physical and cognitive intervention techniques to help address the sequelae of cognitive decline using a personalized targeted approach.
Susan said she learned fascinating information about daily choices to support the 500 trillion synaptic connections within her brain. She explained that PNI has been like a ‘bridge over troubled water’ guiding her on a different path. She has been able to reframe her fear into action through knowledge and support.
Some things she mentioned as key elements to her new attitude were:
- Food choices that provide optimal nutrients for synaptic connections
- Exercise reframed from “should do” to “actively supporting neurons”
- Sleep as essential to healthy brain maintenance and neurogenesis
- Hormonal balance as vital to brain functioning
- Intermittent fasting (between dinner and breakfast) to help clear metabolic waste from the brain
“The small choices I make throughout the day are all important opportunities to improve the wellbeing of my brain,” she said. “Each of us gets to choose if we want to reduce our odds of succumbing to Alzheimer’s.”
Living Now With A New Perspective
“PNI is the guiding light,” said Susan. “Through their brilliance, the medical team truly supports all aspects and phases of the journey towards maximum impact for individuals and their families. PNI opens your mind to new possibilities and opportunities to strengthen one’s biochemical situation through the many facets of brain health.”
She has enjoyed the FitBrain exercise gym where she has worked on both physical and brain health simultaneously.
The biggest ‘Aha moment’ she said was realizing that she could choose her future and look at her brain health from a new perspective.
And that letter? Well, I have more hope now that it may not be needed.
– January 2021, Santa Barbara
About Dr. David Merrill
Dr. David Merrill, MD, PhD, is an adult and geriatric psychiatrist. He is director of the Pacific Brain Health Center at Pacific Neuroscience Institute. He has worked for several decades with patients suffering the behavioral health sequelae of age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disorder. Through his early adoption of emerging clinical practice technologies, Dr. Merrill has developed a “precision holistics” approach that combines personalized genetic and biomarker data with the best evidenced-based treatments available for alleviating depression and cognitive dysfunction within the context of aging.
About the Author
Zara is the marketing director at Pacific Neuroscience Institute. Her background is in molecular genetics research and healthcare marketing. In addition, she is a graphic designer with more than 20 years experience in the healthcare, education and entertainment industries.
Last updated: November 19th, 2021