Acupuncture for DementiaAcupuncture for Dementia

By James Whittle M.S., L.Ac.

On July 20th, 2017, The Los Angeles Times reported on a recent Lancet study proving that one in three cases of dementia can be prevented. Nearly eight percent of dementia cases are preventable through early life education: which could start with understanding the role of proper nutrition and exercise to human health. At midlife, significant risk factors for dementia include hearing loss (if hearing loss was treated an astounding 9% of dementia cases could be prevented), hypertension and obesity. In late life significant risk factors include smoking (5% of cases prevented by stop smoking), depression, physical inactivity, social isolation and diabetes. According to the study, a whopping thirty five percent of dementia cases are potentially modifiable and preventable. Of course, prevention requires education. Health care professionals must focus on coaching patients to make lifestyle changes. Proper nutrition, exercise, and stopping smoking will not only prevent dementia in many cases, but also prevent diabetes and heart problems while protecting the brain.

Holistic forms of medicine, like Chinese medicine, are well suited to provide patients with comprehensive, systems approaches to disease rather than surgical or pharmaceutical fixes. Recent research using acupuncture to treat memory loss showed that acupuncture might stop memory loss that precedes dementia:

For the practitioner of Chinese medicine, a comprehensive evaluation of the patients signs and symptoms is important to attain an accurate diagnosis. If there is a problem with the jing, the qi or the blood, dementia can arise. Ancient physicians often saw disturbances with the heart and kidney as factors leading to memory loss. Our venerable predecessors were able to diagnose meridian and organ disturbances using the pulse, the tongue, sight, smell and sound. They would come to a dependable and accurate diagnosis and use acupuncture, herbs and food therapy to rectify disturbances and prevent problems before they arose.

Acupuncture is a form of healthcare that focuses on education and prevention, it is therefore positioned to help prevent cases of dementia. As we do our jobs well, insurance companies will cover our services. We need to educate the public about what acupuncturists do. The well trained practitioner will not only treat patients with safe, effective and natural protocols, but they will also educate their patients. Every day, acupuncturists help people lose weight, stop smoking, and maintain a healthy blood pressure.

As practitioner's we have many tools at our disposal including ear acupuncture (auriculotherapy), electro-acupuncture and classical forms of the medicine. It is important to know that recent research also indicates a relationship between air quality and pollution and dementia. As we diagnose within the framework of Chinese medicine, we might also focus on helping the liver remove toxins from the system by using nutritional therapy and herbal medicine.

In my opinion, more research should focus on toxins and their contribution to dementia and Alzheimer's.

To see the article about air pollution and dementia, check out this LA times article:

To see the LA Times article about preventing dementia click here:

To see the research in the medical journal, The Lancet, go here:

About the Author

Acupuncturist James Whittle M.S., L.Ac started the Blue Ridge Acupuncture Clinic in Asheville, NC in 2003. A graduate of Bastyr University, he has visited China eight times to study in hospitals. He has taught meditation, yoga and qigong, within a philosophy of systems medicine that treats the whole person. Visit James at

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