A scalpel can shave years off your memory, too

With all the marvels of modern medicine, so many people are fooled into thinking that surgery is a largely risk-free endeavor. But the truth is shocking, to say the least.

In fact, the results of a new study suggest that anesthesia and surgery may nearly double your risk of dementia in the three to seven years that follow. (Yes, you read that right… double.)

What’s more, patients with histories of anesthesia and surgery had shorter times leading up to their diagnosis. And in a majority of the cases, the diagnosis was Alzheimer’s disease.

Similar findings have occurred in previous animal studies. Researchers have found that inhaled surgical anesthetics impair memory and promote amyloid deposits in animals. (Amyloid is the telltale protein build-up you see in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.)

And now, research shows these risks extend to humans as well.

In this latest study, men and women were equally susceptible to increased dementia risk. And that risk was greatest with regional anesthesia (like an epidural), followed by IV (used in twilight sedation), followed by general anesthesia.

Of course, there were lots of confounding variables in this study. Too many to draw any strong or definitive conclusions. But I’ve seen this same connection turn up in just too many patients for there to be no truth to it at all. And where there’s smoke, there’s generally fire.

I’m always urging you not to take surgery lightly. And to strongly weigh the benefits against the risks in your particular circumstance. This new finding is just another compelling reason to say “no” to going under the knife if at all possible.

Obviously, it’s necessary in certain instances. But the main takeaway here is that you should avoid purely elective procedures at all costs.

Unfortunately, though, this discovery also complicates what’s already a tough challenge for cancer patients. Because while preventive surgery is a recipe for disaster in most cases, an active cancer diagnosis is one instance in which surgery is standard treatment.

And paired with chemotherapy, this represents a double whammy to your memory and mental function. Keep reading to find out more about how cancer treatment could cloud your memory—as well as one more little-known dementia risk that could be sitting in your medicine cabinet right now…

I call it “chemo brain.” It’s the brain fog and general dullness of mental clarity that occurs after multiple rounds of chemotherapy. This condition is incredibly common. And it often takes a long while to overcome—which is why I work very hard with my patients to speed the recovery process through nutritional supplementation.

In my experience, an integrative approach to treatment drastically reduces your likelihood of developing “chemo brain”—among many other nasty side effects of chemotherapy. That’s why I’m always urging you to explore all of your treatment options in the wake of a cancer diagnosis.

While we’re on the subject, I would like to go on record with one other acute risk to your brain’s health. (And one that no one seems to be talking about, either.)

Popular sleep aids—like Benadryl, Nyquil, Tylenol PM, and others—can all potentially lead to dementia with long term use. It’s a scientifically established (but unfortunately, not very well known) fact.

I haven’t seen the same risks with nutritional supplements like melatonin or 5-HTP, two of the most common natural sleep aids. But the threat is very serious if you repeatedly take OTC or prescription sleep aids—including valium and other drugs in the benzodiazepine family.

So please, please try to avoid sleeping pills. These drugs are only a band-aid for the deeper cause of your insomnia anyway. To really solve the problem, you need to address your sleeplessness at its root.

But that’s a larger discussion or another day. In fact, I’ll be tackling this very subject in an upcoming issue of my monthly newsletter Logical Health Alternatives. So if you haven’t subscribed yet, sign up today. You won’t want to miss it.



“Risk of dementia after anaesthesia and surgery.” Br J Psychiatry. 2014 Mar;204:188-93.