This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Rodney Soto, M.D. who is a board-certified doctor in Neurology and Holistic Medicine by the American Board of Holistic and Integrative Medicine.
- Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD) may be the first indication of the onset of a dementia-related disease
- SCD is typically a self-reported health condition--as such education about the disease is vital to intervention and management
- Subjective Cognitive Decline can inhibit a person’s quality of life and sense of independence
- Early intervention is key to reversing Subjective Cognitive Decline and preventing or delaying Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related diseases
- While conventional medicine offers few options in the form of treatment, there are very promising alternative treatment options available
Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD) is becoming more common even into middle age. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)1, the prevalence of SCD is 1 in 9 adults over age 45 which is about 11% of the population.
Left unchecked, SCD can inhibit a person’s quality of life and sense of autonomy since it involves basic cognitive functions such as carrying out a simple task or remembering to do things. It can be an early warning sign that something is amiss in the body and if left untreated, could potentially develop into a disease such as Alzheimer’s.
However, there are new approaches and alternative treatments and therapies available to reverse or prevent cognitive dysfunction as we age.
Let’s look at what Subjective Cognitive Decline is, the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, and how we treat SCD naturally at Lifeworks.
What Is Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD)?
Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD) is also sometimes referred to as Subjective Cognitive Impairment (SCI). It appears to be the first step in the decline of cognitive functioning. SCD is the experience adults may have with a gradual move toward mental confusion or memory loss. This type of cognitive impairment is the early warning sign that something is amiss in the body or its environment. Left untreated, it could develop into a more serious condition such as Alzheimer's or another dementia-related disease.
Cognition involves the processes by which the brain learns new things, responds to external input, remembers, and makes decisions and judgments about the self, others, and the world around us. It helps us to perform routine tasks like cooking, doing laundry, driving, eating, and remembering to take supplements or brush our teeth. When cognition is impaired, normal routine functions may become difficult or impossible to do, and memory may be missing at times, especially when it is critical such as remembering if you took a medicine or that you need to attend an appointment.
The reason SCD is called “subjective” is that it is a self-reported experience, and as such the more people know about it, the earlier they can alert health care professionals as to their symptoms. Since early intervention is key to preventing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses, patient education is critical.
- There is almost the same rate of Subjective Cognitive Decline in middle-aged adults as in those 65 and older (10.8% as compared to 11.7%), therefore this is happening much earlier than people might think.1
- Almost 30% of adults with SCD live alone and may not have the support they need to live a healthy life and get help.1
- According to the CDC, less than half of adults with SCD discussed their symptoms with a healthcare professional.1
- People with Subjective Cognitive Decline are at higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related diseases.2
- SCD may also lead to higher incidences of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses since people with these symptoms may not take care of themselves as well or manage their medications properly.
Symptoms of Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD)
Some cognitive decline may be normal as adults age, however losing the ability to do something as simple as preparing a meal or remembering an appointment can severely inhibit a person’s quality of life and sense of freedom and autonomy. The symptoms of Subjective Cognitive Decline are not a normal part of aging and can be addressed naturally. Common symptoms of SCD are:
- Losing the ability to perform routine tasks that you otherwise were able to do before such as preparing a meal or managing your finances
- Forgetting things more often such as appointments and events, or where you put your things
- Mixing up the time appointments and events are scheduled
- Calling someone after you have just called them or repeating a story you just told
- Not remembering if you took a supplement or medicine
- Difficulty finding words to describe something or say what you want to say
- Difficulty understanding directions or an explanation
- Forgetting how to get to places you typically can get to without difficulty or directions
- Becoming confused about where you are and why you are there, especially in familiar surroundings
- Increasing overwhelm when planning or making decisions
Other symptoms that may be linked to subjective cognitive impairment include depression, anxiety, irritability, apathy, and aggression, and in fact, depression and anxiety themselves can also lead to symptoms similar to SCD.
How SCD is Typically Diagnosed and Treated
There is no standard for health care professionals to diagnose Subjective Cognitive Decline. However, there are recommendations from the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer's Association workgroups on how to diagnose Mild Cognitive Impairment which some call the next step in the cognitive decline process, and others use interchangeably with SCD. These criteria include:3
- Noticed changes in cognition reported by the patient, a person who observes or knows the patient, or from a healthcare professional
- Results from cognitive testing of memory, attention, executive function, language, and vision skills
- The person can still maintain independence in life-functions even with the impairments
- The person does not meet the criteria for dementia diseases
A neurological exam, blood tests, and brain imaging may also be included in the diagnosis to rule out any other contributing factors.
Typical treatment for Subjective Cognitive Decline may include Alzheimer’s drugs, and treatments of other conditions that may affect cognitive function such as depression, anxiety, poor sleep, high blood pressure, lack of exercise, lack of mental activity, and isolation. In our view these treatments are not taking into account the body as a whole and its environment. Therefore such treatments can come up short because they don’t get to the underlying cause of symptoms.
Alternative Treatment for SCD
Instead of thinking of SCD or any cognitive issues as a fixed, static condition, we look at it as a deterioration of multiple bodily systems and functions, which combined create a variety of symptoms which have been labeled as “SCD”.
When the body has been chronically overwhelmed or unable to keep up with normal maintenance and repair functions, due to some underlying factor (infection, toxicity, pathogen, an autoimmune condition, etc.) it will start to deteriorate and malfunction over time. These hidden factors are sidelining and diverting your body’s available resources and energy into trying to cope with these hidden factors and that sets the stage for a disease process to take hold.
Our approach is based on locating and treating these hidden underlying factors. This approach opens the door to more treatment vectors to address and correct, which eliminates these hidden burdens and restores energy, immune and neurological function, thereby releasing the full miraculous healing power of the human body. And that’s why we see amazing health progress with patients and even recoveries using this approach.
Looking for Underlying Factors
We use both conventional and alternative methods to locate these contributory factors. Our testing may include one or more of the following:
- Testing for heavy metal toxicity
- Testing for inflammatory markers
- Testing for autoimmune conditions
- Testing for food allergies
- Testing for Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Testing for Lyme disease
- CNS neurocognitive test - assesses the neurocognitive status of the patient including motor skills and performance, memory, attention, and executive functioning.
- MRI with volumetrics - assesses neurodegeneration even at the early stages.
- MoCA cognitive assessment - reveals information on cognitive functioning.
- Vascular health assessment - shows symptoms of heart and vascular disease and the status of the patient’s blood circulation and blood pressure
- Nutritional & dietary deficiency testing
- Testing of neurotransmitters, hormones, minerals, essential fatty acids, and other nutritional markers.
Once all the necessary diagnostics are completed our team of doctors will formulate a treatment program tailor-made for the patient.
Treatment Interventions for Subjective Cognitive Decline
We believe that patients with Subjective Cognitive Impairment and other cognitive issues can make significant improvements using a holistic approach.
To accomplish this, we use a variety of alternative treatments and therapies based on the finding of the test results.
- Repairing Gut Issues - gut issues like Leaky Gut Syndrome are common triggers for autoimmunity and inflammation and often lead to cognitive issues.
- Addressing Inflammation - we test and treat systemic inflammation, infections, gut issues, other causes of inflammation.
- Food Allergy Treatment - food allergies can trigger inflammation and autoimmune conditions which can lead to cognitive impairment.
- Autoimmune Treatment- autoimmunity is where the body is attacking itself in some way, leading to inflammation and cognitive issues. It often goes undetected and unsuspected.
- Lyme Disease Resolution - if labs come back positive for Lyme we will treat it. Lyme disease can produce debilitating cognitive issues and brain fog
- Dietary and Nutritional Deficiencies - clearing up nutritional deficiencies, supporting the body with the right nutraceuticals to improve brain health including macro/micronutrients, minerals, hormones, neurotransmitters, essential fatty acids, etc.
- Controlling Blood Pressure - keeping blood pressure in a healthy range has been shown to reduce the symptoms of cognitive decline.
- Enhanced External Counterpulsation - increases blood flow and circulation
- Plasmapheresis - separates the plasma from the blood where it is treated and returned to the body.
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) - delivers pure oxygen to the patient in a pressurized chamber allowing the lungs to take in more oxygen than normal. This fills the blood with oxygen which can fight bacteria and promote healing.
- Vielight NeURO - delivers photons to a light-sensitive enzyme in the mitochondria which is known to trigger self-repair mechanisms in the cells, enhance cognition, and protect cell neurons.
- Pulsed Electromagnetic Field (PEMF) Technology - emission of electromagnetic waves to stimulate the body’s own healing properties
- Celergen - This is an anti-aging cell therapy supplement that promotes cell renewal and stimulation.
- Peptide Therapy - utilizes specific chains of amino acids called peptides to signal cells to turn on or turn off certain functions. This works to help regulate and rejuvenate neuroendocrine-immune function.
- BrainHQ - This system of brain training exercises Improves brain health.
- Exosome Therapy - a peptide therapy using cell-derived nanoparticles which play a vital role in cell-to-cell communication. They help regulate physiological processes and regenerate older cells by exposing them to exosomes from younger stem cells.
- BrainTap - tapping into specific brainwave states, BrainTap helps to reboot and revitalize the brain, promotes relaxation, and reduces stress on the body and mind.
- Intermittent fasting - through intermittent fasting the body is able to take periodic breaks from digestion so the body can focus all its resources on healing.
- Health Coaching - helps patients keep track of their nutrition, exercise, supplements, and other suggested changes.
Treating Subjective Cognitive Decline
We firmly believe that health conditions such as Subjective Cognitive Decline and dementia-related diseases are preventable and in many cases are reversible.
We believe that we must address the person as a whole since every function of the body and mind are interconnected. By addressing the health of the body we can improve our brain health and vice versa.
We approach illness from a patient-centered, science-backed vantage point to empower patients and their bodies to address the underlying causes of disease and improve their overall health, body and mind. This, in turn, will improve their quality of life.
Contact Us About SCD
If you are looking for natural treatments for Subjective Cognitive Decline, we would love to work with you. Early intervention can help people prevent dementia-related diseases and live a more productive, healthy life.
Dr. Rodney Soto is highly trained and Board Certified in Neurology and Holistic Medicine. Patients travel from all over the world to see our specialists and heal naturally.To discuss your health issue or to schedule an appointment, call us at our Clearwater clinic at 727-466-6789 or submit an online patient inquiry.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s Disease and Healthy Aging, Subjective Cognitive Decline--A Public Health Issue, February 2019.
- National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine, Dementia & Neuropsychologia, 2016, Jul-Sep, Subjective cognitive decline: The first clinical manifestation of Alzheimer’s disease?
- National Institutes of Health, US National Library of Medicine, JAMA, 2014 Dec 17, The Diagnosis and Management of Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Clinical Review, Source document: The diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer's disease: recommendations from the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer's Association workgroups on diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer's disease, Alzheimers Dementia, 2011 May.
*Disclaimer: Individual patient results may vary based on a patient's medical history and other factors.