How Sylvia Hatzer, Aged 82, Reversed Her Dementia by Following a Mediterranean Diet

The heartbreaking experience of seeing a loved one struggle with dementia is something Mark Hatzer knew all too well. His mother Sylvia Hatzer, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 82, reached the point where she could no longer recognize her son – a moment Mark described as the worst of his life. Sylvia’s memory problems began with subtle forgotten birthdays and missed appointments before escalating into more serious symptoms, leading to her being admitted to North Manchester General Hospital for safety.

During her hospital stay, Sylvia’s condition appeared to stabilize, but underlying problems persisted. Despite the advanced state of her dementia, including significant memory loss, disorientation, and behavioral changes, recovery seemed remote. But her release from the hospital marked the beginning of an unconventional road to recovery that challenged conventional medical expectations.

Mark Hatzer must have been devastated to discover that his 82-year-old mother, Sylvia Hatzer, who suffers from dementia, was unable to identify her own son. Sylvia’s condition worsened and she was admitted to North Manchester General Hospital for her own safety, which was the last thing he wanted to hear.

It was difficult for her there in many different ways. In 2015, Sylvia started having memory problems. She often had trouble remembering birthdays or plans she had made. However, it wasn’t until December 2016 that doctors diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease and Mark realized how quickly his mother was losing her memory.

Sylvia Hatzer

In old age, it makes sense to forget birthdays and lunch plans. Understandably, Sylvia even went so far as to call the police and accuse the hospital staff of kidnapping. But Mark believed he had “reached the lowest point of his life” when his mother did not recognize him.

How Sylvia Hatzer Overcame Dementia on the Road to Recovery

She was there for two months before Sylvia’s doctors approved her release from the hospital. It didn’t mean he was safe yet.

All the early warning signs and symptoms of dementia, such as memory loss (especially transient), increased disorientation, difficulty concentrating, behavioral or personality changes, a general feeling of withdrawal, apathy or depression, and an inability to perform basic daily performance tasks, were still present in Sylvia [ 2].

However, the Hatzer family’s subsequent actions were what really made a difference.

“After she was released from the hospital, we considered trying an alternative treatment instead of the prescribed prescription… Because of their diet, Alzheimer’s is basically unheard of in [Mediterranean] countries.

Not only are blueberries, strawberries, Brazil nuts, and walnuts shaped like a brain, suggesting they are good for the brain, but everyone knows fish.

The diet of Mediterranean nations (such as France, Italy, Spain, Croatia, and Turkey) has long been the subject of research. These traditional diets are praised by both scientists and Mediterranean people for their ability to improve memory or thinking and reduce the risk of dementia.

The Alzheimer’s Society states that “the Mediterranean diet is traditionally rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, with moderate consumption of fatty fish and dairy products, and low in meat, sugar, and saturated fat.” [3]

More evidence that the Mediterranean diet can treat and prevent dementia

According to a study presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in July 2017, adopting a Mediterranean diet can actually greatly reduce the risk of dementia in adults. The study was led by Claire McEvoy from the University of California, who examined the eating habits of about 6,000 Americans.

Additionally, the study was sufficiently nationally representative for its findings to be applicable to the general public, despite the fact that the average age of the participants was 68, according to CNN.

“After adjusting for age, s*x, race, low educational attainment, and lifestyle and health problems — such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, depression, smoking, and physical inactivity — the researchers found that those who followed the MIND or Mediterranean diet had a 30 % 35% lower risk of cognitive impairment.”[4]

The results of twelve relevant scientific studies were examined in a 2013 systematic review published in Epidemiology to determine whether or not a Mediterranean diet can improve cognitive performance.

The paper states that “greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with slower cognitive decline and a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.” [5]

The results of another systematic study from 2016 published in Advances in Nutrition were confirmed. Although more research is needed to establish a causal link between dementia prevention and the Mediterranean diet, the researchers agree that “adherence to the MD is associated with better cognitive performance.” [6]

What other actions did Sylvia Hatzer take to help reverse dementia?

Mark revealed that his mother regularly engaged in cognitive exercises. These included playing games such as jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles and participating in social clubs. He even bought his mother a cycling machine so she could exercise while sitting.

“It didn’t happen immediately, but after a few months, she started to remember things like her birthday and was back to her old self – more aware and engaged.

Many believe that receiving a diagnosis means the end of your life. You will have good days and bad days, but it doesn’t have to spell doom.

Who says you can’t gain weight when an 82-year-old dieter has been able to change someone’s life? The changes don’t have to be significant either. So you can start protecting your brain now, whether you decide to change your diet, quit smoking, or engage in any other lifestyle change to avoid dementia.

Sylvia Hatzer’s journey from the depths of dementia to regaining her cognitive abilities is powerful evidence of the potential impact of lifestyle changes on brain health. Her story shows that even in the face of devastating diagnoses, there is room for hope and possibility. By adopting a Mediterranean diet, regular cognitive exercise, and maintaining an active social life, Sylvia was able to defy expectations and significantly improve her quality of life.

This case not only highlights the importance of diet in managing and potentially reversing the symptoms of dementia but also underscores the value of comprehensive lifestyle modification. While the Mediterranean diet played a key role, Sylvia’s regular mental and physical activities also contributed to her cognitive recovery. The combination of these elements shows that holistic approaches can be effective in combating cognitive decline.

For those facing similar challenges, Sylvia’s story is an encouraging reminder that change is possible and improvement can occur at any age. It reinforces the idea that adopting healthier diets, staying mentally active, and staying connected to community and family are beneficial practices. While more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between diet and dementia, Sylvia’s experience serves as an inspiring example of how individuals can take proactive steps to improve their cognitive health and overall well-being.

In conclusion, whether you are directly affected by dementia or trying to prevent cognitive decline, small but consistent lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Sylvia Hatzer’s recovery is a beacon of hope for many, suggesting that with determination, support, and the right strategies, it is possible to reclaim a vibrant, engaged life in the face of challenging circumstances.

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