MIRIAM DIDN’T start out seeing herself as someone who could beat mild cognitive impairment. That didn’t even seem like a possibility to her.
But early one day in September 2019, she logged into a support group on Facebook to share the good news.
Here’s exactly how she put it:
Good morning, everyone! I’m so happy to have been a part of this group while living with mild cognitive impairment for the past 4 or more years.
I’m very ecstatic to report, after visiting my Neurologist yesterday, I have experienced a complete reversal due to adherence to a very strict diet, vigorous cardiovascular exercise, reduction of stress, and practice of mindfulness techniques.
Thank you for being such a wonderful, supportive group and I wish everyone the best!
It was a startling, inspiring declaration that seemed to come out of nowhere.
Miriam hadn’t posted to our Facebook group for quite a while, and the last time we heard from her, she sounded like anyone else facing this ominous condition. Frightened. Overwhelmed. Groping for answers.
Yet here she was, announcing that she had reversed her cognitive loss, and sounding downright giddy about it.
To the members of our Facebook group, that felt like a miracle. If only they could halt or reverse their own MCI, the way Miriam had. That was their dream, too. The congratulations came in ALL CAPS with a flurry of exclamation points.
“FANTASTIC!!! So happy for you.”
“Wonderful news and so glad that you shared it. You give us HOPE!”
“OMG!! So happy for you!!! Can you share the strict diet? And mindfulness techniques? Trying to help my LO every day!!!”
There is a reason I share this story, and it’s not because I want you to meet Miriam.
It’s because I want you to be Miriam.
What she did is entirely possible for you. And she’d be the first to tell you that.
“When I started on this journey of recovery, my goal was to keep myself from getting worse; that’s all I wanted,” Miriam says. “But what happened was, I got better and it reversed, and I wasn’t expecting that. I want people to know if that happened to me, it could happen to you.”
MY MISSION: TO GIVE YOU HOPE AND A PATH
What if it could happen for you? What if it did? Would that be a miracle?
The answer is, it wouldn’t. What Miriam accomplished wasn’t miraculous at all. It’s becoming more common every day. Thanks to revolutionary advances in research and a whole new array of cutting-edge treatments, it is now quite possible to slow, halt or reverse cognitive decline when caught at the MCI stage.
For Miriam, for you, for anyone with mild cognitive impairment, these breakthroughs offer hope, something people with MCI desperately need.
And they offer a way, the other thing so many people facing this vague, baffling diagnosis so find have themselves without.
That, then, is my mission: To give you hope and a path. To invite you to Go Cogno.
To Go Cogno is to become an advocate for your own care and the architect of your own actions. It’s based on a set of best practices that I arrived at over a period of years spent talking to really smart doctors who are finding new, effective ways to treat cognitive impairment and the patients who are gamely battling MCI and prevailing against it.
It’s not a magic formula. It’s not a proprietary protocol. Rather, it is an approach I have seen work again and again for real people in the real world as they took aggressive steps to defend their cognition.
They’re the ones who had the resolve to act and the resourcefulness to succeed, and they deserve the credit. All I’ve done is distill their successes into a clear and easy-to-follow course of action that shows you how possible it becomes to halt or reverse your cognitive loss when you:
— get a diagnosis you understand and can act on;
— find yourself the quality of care that everyone with MCI deserves, but many go without;
— own your version of MCI, because you’re the only one who has it;
— commit to the five lifestyle essentials that pave the way to better brain health;
— defend your brain against the cognitive peril of such toxins as mercury, arsenic or mold; and
—enroll in a clinical trial if that’s an option for you.
NEW AND NOVEL TREATMENTS FOR MCI
If you’re reading this book, I assume you either have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, or you have a loved one with MCI. Or at the very least, you may be experiencing memory problems so worrisome that you presume it’s some form of neurological impairment, even if you don’t know and you’re afraid to find out.
So let me assure you, not at all facetiously, that there’s never been a better time to be diagnosed with MCI.
Even a few short years ago, the treatment options for mild cognitive impairment were meager to nonexistent. It generally went like this: The doctor gave the diagnosis, shrugged and said, “There’s not much we can do for you. Come back and see me in a year.”
The poor patient went home baffled and terrified. Mild cognitive impairment? Never heard of it. I don’t know anyone else who has it. Am I the only one? Why me? What did I ever do to deserve this?
A Google search did nothing to ease that sense of alarm and dread. There was scant information available online, and it tended to be outdated and inaccurate, referring to MCI as “incipient dementia” and projecting that 80 percent of the people who had it would progress to Alzheimer’s in fairly short order.
This misguided belief — that mild cognitive impairment almost surely means dementia and there’s little to be done about it — has always been a profound disservice to people with MCI, and never more than now, when we know so much better.
Regardless of what you’ve heard, regardless of what you’ve read, regardless of what you fear during your darkest moments, please know this. You are not doomed by this diagnosis.
Cognitive impairment, when caught early enough, can be slowed, halted or even reversed.
I don’t say this to make you feel better or to give you false hope. It is empirically true.
In this book, I will show you new scientific evidence that offers real hope. Groundbreaking research says that nearly 90 percent of people with MCI can stabilize or reverse their cognitive loss over a period of four to five years, and relatively few (approximately 12%) will progress to dementia during that time.
I will share with you the results of study after study in which thousands of people with MCI, people just like you, were shown to halt or reverse their cognitive decline through exercise, diet, meditation or brain training. When you combine healthy habits like these, the results become even more impressive.
I will introduce you to respected medical professionals who are flipping the script on mild cognitive impairment. These outspoken experts reject the gloomy prognostications of the past, when it was taboo to even hint that MCI might be halted or — heresy of heresies — to suggest that Alzheimer’s disease is preventable.
They say exactly that, right out loud. They are here to tell you that cognitive impairment is treatable and reversible and they’re demonstrating it by the results they see with their patients.
REAL PEOPLE, REAL RESULTS
It’s not just the patients at a handful of elite, specialized MCI clinics who are getting these results.
I regularly encounter people with MCI who have experienced improvement in their cognition or at least stabilized it, often for very long periods. Does that surprise you? It surprised them, too.
Typically, these people have a history of Alzheimer’s in their family and began with the assumption that their fate was sealed. In some cases, when their memory began to fail and they went to the doctor, the initial diagnosis was Alzheimer’s. Their doctor prepared them for the worst. But the worst didn’t come.
Instead, a year later or maybe two years later, they tested better. Their memory scores improved, or at least stopped declining. Their diagnosis was downgraded to MCI, and their cognition went on to remain stable or, better yet, eventually reverted to normal.
Remarkable as that may seem, they went about it in the most unremarkable ways.
They set out on a mission to defend their cognition, managed to do a lot of things right along the way, and got a better result than they dared to hope for.
And here’s what you can take heart in: What they did is available to anyone with MCI, including you. But that effort must begin with a basic understanding of what mild cognitive impairment is, what it means to have it, and what it takes to address it.
Far too many people diagnosed with MCI are still being sent home without even the slightest grasp of that. So here, in a nutshell, is what I’ve learned from scores of top doctors and scientist who devote themselves to mild cognitive impairment.
MCI is not a specific disease. It’s more of a catchall term, a way for your doctor to describe a degree of cognitive loss that’s unusual for someone your age. (For a more detailed look at MCI, see the FAQ in the Appendix.)
MCI isn’t a form of dementia, and it doesn’t mean you’re going to get dementia, although it puts you at higher risk.
About half of people with MCI will see their memory loss stabilize for a period of four to five years after their diagnosis. Another third or so will return to cognitively normal.
So that outdated information you found on the Internet saying 80 percent of people with MCI will progress to dementia over five years? It’s way off the mark. In actuality, maybe 10 to 12 percent of people with MCI will progress to dementia over that amount of time.
So the odds of slowing or stabilizing cognitive decline at the MCI stage are actually pretty good, and whatever your odds, they become even better when you Go Cogno.
AN EXERCISE IN ‘COGNITIVE ORIENTEERING’
For sure, the Go Cogno approach is infused with what I’ve learned from the leading experts on MCI. There are so many brilliant, amazing people working on MCI these days. They are helping us get a better handle on what mild cognitive impairment is, what it’s doing to your brain, and what you can do to defend yourself against it.
They’ve provided us with the pillars of brain health, and they have given us the ability to say with confidence, yes, you can potentially slow, halt or reverse this thing.
Go Cogno is entirely consistent with the pedagogy of these experts. But it goes one important step further. It shows you how to take that knowledge, go out into the real world, and make it work for you.
I say this because Go Cogno is, in essence, a crowd-sourced approach. It is of, for and by people with MCI. Because they are the ones out there doing this. And Go Cogno is how they did it.
When you’ve had a chance to interact with hundreds of people who have MCI, and you see the ones who are succeeding, and getting the results other people aren’t, you naturally wonder why. What are these people doing right? What’s working for them?
So I started asking. The more people I talked to, the clearer the pattern became. Over and over again, I kept seeing the same set of commonalities in the way these people defended their cognition. Eventually, that coalesced into the Go Cogno approach.
Nobody can promise you the results these people got. But nobody promised them those results either. They just went out and did it. What they’ve been fortunate enough to achieve, I want to make every bit as available to you.
In the chapters that follow, we will arm you with what you need to know — and do — in order to defend your cognition. But don’t expect some GPS-style solution that maps out the exact route to your final destination. This is more directional.
Are you familiar with orienteering? It’s a sport where the competitors are given a compass and a basic topographical map and use those to traverse through unfamiliar terrain. They’re all trying to get to the same place, but no two of them take the same route. Each has to find his or her own way.
That’s what this is. Cognitive orienteering. It’s designed to point you in the right direction and provide guideposts along the way as you get from where you are now to a cognitively better place.
I wish this book didn’t need to exist. I wish every person with MCI walked out of the doctor’s office with a firm grasp of their diagnosis, a clear and aggressive course of treatment and some degree of confidence that they can indeed slow, halt or reverse the symptoms they’re experiencing.
Someday, that will be true for everyone. For now, let’s make it true for you, by using the Go Cogno approach to help guide you there.
Fortunately, this is not something you have to figure out entirely for yourself. You are following in the footsteps of those who’ve come before you. People like Miriam, and so many others.
Their outcome is now your opportunity — as long as you commit to better brain health and are willing to put in the work.
As Václav Havel once said:
“It is not enough to stare up the steps. We must step up the stairs.”
Are you ready to take that first step?
Then let’s Go Cogno. Your journey begins when you turn the page.
TAKEAWAYS FROM CHAPTER 1
You are not doomed by your diagnosis. It is possible to slow, halt or reverse MCI and the odds of doing so are actually good.
To Go Cogno is to be an advocate for your own care and the architect of your own actions. It’s a set of best practices gleaned from dedicated doctors who are pioneering new treatments and the patients who gamely battle MCI and prevail against it.
The Go Cogno approach has worked again and again for real people in the real world. They set out to defend their cognition, managed to do a lot of things right, and got a better result than they dared to hope for.
No one can promise you the results that others got, but no one promised them those results either. Their outcome is now your opportunity — as long as you commit to better brain health and are willing to put in the work.
ONE ACTION, RIGHT NOW: Turn to Chapter 2