Dharma Singh Khalsa's groundbreaking work on age-associated memory loss addresses an issue of rising concern for an aging population. Because many physicians believe that memory loss and decline in overall mental function are a normal part of aging, active treatment for people undergoing such changes is relatively rare. Dr. Khalsa contends that this is a tragic error, and offers a broad-based complementary medicine program for maintaining and restoring peak mental function. His approach includes diet, exercise, meditation, nutritional supplements, and in certain cases prescription medications.
Born in Ohio and raised in Florida, Khalsa is a graduate of Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, and was trained in anesthesiology at the University of California Medical School, San Francisco, where he was Chief Resident. He completed the UCLA Medical Acupuncture for Physicians course, and is the founding director of the Acupuncture, Stress Medicine and Chronic Pain Program at the University of Arizona College of Medicine's teaching hospital in Phoenix, Maricopa Medical Center.
For the past five years he has been President and Medical Director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Foundation, the only complementary medicine program in the world researching the prevention and reversal of memory loss.
His first book, Brain Longevity: The Breakthrough Program That Improves Your Mind and Memory was published by Warner Books in 1997. It has been translated into eight languages and is a best seller in Brazil. In September 1997, Dr. Khalsa presented a paper on his work at the World Federation on Neurology, the first-ever presentation on complementary medicine to that group.
For further information:
E-mail: Dr. Khalsa@aol.com
Daniel Redwood: Is memory loss and cognitive decline a normal part of aging?
Dharma Singh Khalsa: Certain doctors in the conservative medical establishment still hold to the idea that as we age, our minds and our brains are going to wear out just like the rest of the body. There is another school of thought that holds that we can regenerate rather than degenerate. In answer to your question, I don't think it's inevitable that our cognitive function will decline.
Redwood What are the key factors leading to cognitive decline in those people who do experience it?
Khalsa: There are a number of risk factors. The first, of course, is age. With increasing age, there is an increasing incidence of cognitive decline. People over age 85 have a very high percentage of risk of getting Alzheimer's Disease, a 50 percent risk. For those over age 65, it's ten percent. This means that as the population is aging, the number of people who develop cognitive decline as they get older will increase as well. The second major risk factor is family history. If someone has a first-degree relative with this problem, the chances are around seven times greater that they will also be susceptible to Alzheimer's. So if someone in your immediate family -- your mother, father, siblings, or an aunt or uncle -- has Alzheimer's, your chances are greater. Then there's a certain gene, the APOe4 gene. A person who has two of these genes is susceptible to a certain kind of memory loss. But genetic factors are a small part of the risk factors for Alzheimer's Disease.
The other factors all relate to lifestyle. Some are beyond a person's control, while others are within a person's control. For example, a head injury early in life is a risk factor. Lack of formal education is a risk factor. These are beyond a person's control. People can have depression that masquerades as memory loss as they get older, so that has to be ruled out, as would deficiencies of vitamin B-12 and folic acid. Nutrition is very important. If someone eats a high-fat, high-caloric diet throughout their whole life, they are at greater risk. Lack of exercise puts a person at greater risk. Having coronary artery disease definitely puts a person at greater risk for developing Alzheimer's Disease, which is why we use the adage in Brain Longevity, "What works for your heart, works for your head." Another important principle is that the brain is flesh and blood like the rest of the body.