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Can Cryotherapy Prevent Alzheimer’s?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that Alzheimer’s disease (AD) causes 34.4 deaths per 100,000 of population, making it the sixth leading cause of death in the country. The CDC doesn’t provide any statistics on AD’s collateral damage to families. Any long-term or fatal medical condition can play havoc with family life, but because AD manifests itself as behavioral changes in the patient, it can be uniquely heartbreaking. As it destroys memory, it dismantles the self. This is stressful for the family of the Alzheimer’s patient, but it may be even worse for the patient. It’s no wonder one of the hallmarks of the disease is angry outbursts.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there is no cure for AD, and existing treatments have serious limitations: “As Alzheimer’s progresses, brain cells die and connections among cells are lost, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. While current medications cannot stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain’s nerve cells.”

But the outlook for AD is far from hopeless. A 2012 paper in Medical Hypotheses (PDF) proposed investigating whole-body cryotherapy (WBC) to prevent the disease: “Nowadays, there is a general consensus that vascular alterations, oxidative stress and inflammatory response contribute to the development of AD. Following these mechanisms and tracing the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of cryostimulation, we postulate that whole-body cryotherapy (WBCT) might be utilized as a means of preventing AD.” 

That paper appeared six years ago, and since then, there have been at least a half dozen research projects on cryotherapy and cognitive function. A typical specimen appeared in European Psychiatry in 2016. In that study, seven volunteers completed a battery of cognitive tests after WBC. Of the seven, all but one scored higher on the tests after WBC treatments. This study was followed by the publication the next year in the same journal of a study of 10 patients with mild cognitive impairment who were treated with WBC. That study found improvement in both cognitive function and “memory domains.” 

It’s important to remember, however, that AD is generally a slow-moving disease. It usually takes so long to incapacitate its victims that the Alzheimer’s Association has published a list of 10 warning signs to help people determine if they even have it. It’s significant that the 2012 paper proposed WBC, not as a treatment for AD but as a preventative. With a disease that takes so long to produce symptoms, it’s difficult to pinpoint the difference between treatment and prevention. The authors of the 2012 paper hypothesized that regular WBC sessions could reduce inflammatory response and oxidative stress, which would slow the progress of the disease.

If you have a loved one in whom you notice any of the 10 warning signs, get that person to a doctor. There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are recognized treatments that can slow its progress. If you don’t have AD and don’t want to develop it, consider testing the 2012 hypothesis on your own by booking a series of whole-body cryotherapy sessions at Peak Recovery & Health Center.