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A healthy mind is the outcome of a healthy heart in TCM, and a healthy heart is the outcome of healthy kidneys, and this is down to lifestyle. A weakening of heart and / or kidneys will weaken the mind and manifest as dementia symptoms. Dementia is on the rise because so many contemporary lifestyle factors have a negative effect on heart and kidney function. These include hyper-stimulation, overwork, emotional stress, poor diets and sleep deprivation. Add work cultures of long hours on the computer, eating snacks instead of meals, pulling all-nighters, and fad diets that have insufficient protein, and you get ‘brain fog’ (defined as cognitive dysfunction, confusion, forgetfulness, and a lack of focus and mental clarity) the new phenomenon in the younger demographic.
There is no sudden onset of dementia in TCM, it develops over time. And the symptoms can be slowed down, stopped and even reversed by understanding the underlying progression and building healthy heart and kidney functions. Dementia is not a brain disease, it comes from ‘malnourishment of the head region’. A western medicine preventative suggestion is to keep your mind active and challenged by doing crosswords, puzzles and so on, but this alone won’t prevent dementia, you need to work with your body as well. The prevention and treatment approach is the same: create abundant blood and healthy organs, and only lifestyle and a nutritious diet can deliver this. Chinese herbal formulas are essential. Their effects are extraordinary.
A brilliant preventative measure is tai-chi because it challenges your mind, gets your chi flowing, strengthens all your organs, and builds your blood all at the same time. And it is really enjoyable! Even Harvard medical school researchers refer to tai chi as ‘medication in motion’ now. Tai chi is a key part of the chi-cycle lifestyle; the ultimate medicinal lifestyle to nourish blood, heart and kidneys and to prevent and treat brain fog and dementia. To get a personal plan to change your lifestyle and make it medicinal, book in for a holistic lifestyle consultation. For more info on how, when and why to do tai chi, and how to live in a way to prevent dementia buy my book Clock On To Health.
In Chinese medicine dementia is affiliated with the heart and kidneys. The heart houses the mind and produces blood. A healthy mind requires abundant blood and the heart depends on the nourishment of the kidneys to produce this. In TCM your kidneys (not your mind) are the origin of skill and intelligence. If the kidney essence (Jing) is strong it will nourish the brain and concentration, thinking and memory will be good. If the heart is strong and blood is abundant it equates to normal mental activity, a great memory, and balanced emotionality. If blood is deficient it gives rise to poor memory, dull thinking, mental problems such as depression, and insomnia.
In TCM herbal formulas are the primary treatment for dementia. Chinese herbal medicines that boost memory and promote healthy longevity by strengthening heart blood (for good memory) and kidney essence, have been refined over thousands of years. There are formulas that combine several herbal compounds which work together to address the multiple factors associated with dementia (current pharmaceutical drug treatments don't do this). Exercising the body and mind are an essential part of this.
In Western medicine dementia is a term for a group of symptoms characterised by significant memory loss as well as by personality changes and the inability to carry out simple tasks. Dementia is considered to be caused by a disease of the brain which destroys the neurotransmitters which carry signals from one part of the brain to another, managing memory, body mechanisms, logic and reason. The most common form is Alzheimer’s Disease, but impaired brain function can also be the result of brain injury. Dementia manifests differently in different people and is more likely to affect the elderly, but it is not a normal consequence of ageing. There are a group of key symptoms which, if several are present, usually lead to a diagnosis of brain disease.
In Western medicine the key warning symptoms of dementia are: significant memory loss that causes a disruption to normal routine; difficulty in problem-solving and making plans; disorientation – either time or place; inability to judge distance and spatial relationships and confusion over other visual clues; difficulty with language both written and spoken; short term memory loss; social withdrawal; personality and mood changes such as increased aggression and agitation. The person suffering from dementia might become suspicious, abusive and depressed. These responses are thought to simply be the result of the fear, confusion and paranoia, and even grief, being experienced.
There is presently no known treatment in Western medicine. Medications such as pain-killers and anti-depressants are used to treat some symptoms and, more rarely, anti-psychotics if the changes to the brain are causing extreme paranoia, delusion, and other symptoms of psychosis.