Preventing/Treating Alzheimer’s and Dementia with Seth Conger

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Content By: Ari Whitten & Seth Conger

In this episode, I am speaking with Seth Conger – the CEO and co-founder of MIOS health. MIOS Health is a startup with a mission to help people with pre-Alzheimer’s to not develop Alzheimer’s disease. We will talk about the most common causes and signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and how you can prevent and treat it.

In this podcast, Seth will cover:

  • What is pre-Alzheimer’s and how to know if you have it
  • What your daily habits over the past 30-40 years can mean for your brain
  • The top 3 lifestyle choices that impact your risk of brain disease
  • What billions of dollars in research proves about amyloid build-up
  • Why drugs fail 99.6% of the time at curing brain disease
  • How to prevent yourself from becoming one of the 70 MILLION people who fall into the pre-Alzheimer’s category
  • How setting and KEEPING personalized health goals is the key to optimal brain health
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Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. Welcome back to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host Ari Whitten. Today I have with me Seth Conger, who is the CEO and co-founder of MIOS Health. MIOS Health is a startup with a mission to help people with pre-Alzheimer’s to not develop Alzheimer’s disease. Every moment in Seth’s life has led him a step closer to the company’s mission, including entertaining and presenting in front of hundreds of thousands of people, helping shape and grow one of the premier brain function improvement facilities in the world and finally, being published as a co-author in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinsonism as the only non-doctor for successfully reversing cognitive decline in 100 patient cases in 2018.

I’m very, very excited about the work that his company is doing. I think it’s really a game-changer when it comes to treating neurological disease. I’m super excited to finally have him on the show, to have him talk about this. I think anybody who’s listening to this, who’s concerned with the potential to develop neurological disease, especially Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinsonism or has friends or family who are dealing with those, you definitely want to listen to this. Welcome, Seth, such a pleasure to have you.

Seth Conger: Thanks, Ari. I appreciate being here.

The most common precursers and causes of Alzheimer’s

Ari Whitten: Talk to me about Alzheimer’s disease, what are some of the precursors? In your bio it mentions pre-Alzheimer’s, this phrase, it’s sort of like pre-diabetes, right? What are the precursors to Alzheimer’s disease and can you help? Does knowing that information allow somebody to do interventions to lower their risk of actually developing Alzheimer’s?

Seth Conger: Yes. First, the term pre-Alzheimer’s is something that we came up with. We came up with it because the other terms out there are subjective cognitive decline and mild cognitive impairment. They keep changing these terms around every time they redo the DSM, which is the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual for mental health. A lot of doctors are confused by the terms. So, consumers are really concerned and confused by these terms.

We said it’s a lot like pre-diabetes and it comes before diabetes, so this is pre-Alzheimer’s. That really breaks up into, are you at risk for developing Alzheimer’s? Do you have symptoms? Can you recognize those symptoms or are others recognizing those in you? That would be subjective cognitive decline. Then there’s mild cognitive impairment, which is actually a diagnosable disorder, it’s one step away from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease representing about 70% of the cases of dementia.

Up until that point, you are still living independently and that’s important. That’s the barrier that we see when people no longer can live independently or get through their day-to-day tasks independently, that’s where we’re unable to really see a shift or a change in improving their brain health and overall condition. There are some cases, but not enough to really stand on. It’s the individuals who are at risk, that could be genetic risks, that could be underlying chronic conditions, or others going into the other parts that really we focus on. All the way up until that point where you’re going to be diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, we find and studies have shown that we can actually reverse cognitive decline in many cases and improve brain function and overall quality of life.

Ari Whitten: Got you. What are some of these factors that actually you guys or the research community, more broadly, have identified as the main causative factors as far as the reasons people develop Alzheimer’s disease?

Seth Conger: I’ll throw in an important tidbit here, which is, and you mentioned it in the bio, that I am not a doctor. As I go through all of this, I want to make sure that none of this is taken as medical advice. Our company, MIOS Health, actually works as a medical service provider to work with doctors. We help people who are in need, find the appropriate doctor and we work with them to make sure that they have a program that fits their needs and gets them to a desired result.

With that being said, we do see a lot of underlying conditions and research has shown up to about three dozen different underlying conditions that can be broken down into various categories that will lead the brain towards a cognitive impairment, potentially Alzheimer’s disease. These are everything from having too much or too little of something, which is those two buckets that we can put up there and then I can break down further and further from there.

The big issues that we see are toxins in people’s systems. We see a lot of gut issues and dysbiosis. We see mitochondrial issues, which I know you are very, very familiar with and decreases in energy and fatigue. We see a ton of issues with metabolic effects. This would be high blood sugar. Think about diabetes. Some people even call Alzheimer’s disease now diabetes type 3 and that is a big part of this. Hypertension and driving into even further other chronic diseases like heart disease, those also are some of the leading conditions that can point the brain towards a further decline.

There’s a key that we have found in this, which is, there’s a reason some people are able to have these chronic conditions and their brain is not declining and others are and it seems to be pointing towards the blood-brain barrier. Just like your gut, if you have a leaky gut, you have a breakdown in your gut barrier. The good things can’t stay in and get digested and the bad things are getting out and they’re becoming systemic. We’re seeing the same thing in the brain, the brain is being penetrated by things that are actually damaging it and insulting it and the brain is reacting in a way that is potentially a protective mechanism that over time, if left unchecked, creates the symptoms that we associate with cognitive decline.

How lifestyle and nutrition choices play into brain-related disease

Ari Whitten: Got you, very interesting. How do lifestyle choices and nutrition play into this? You mentioned environmental toxins are a big factor and you mentioned the blood-brain barrier. The way I like to look at things is, we have causes, what I conceptualize as true root causes, generally at the environment, the lifestyle, the nutrition level. Some cases genetic causes, though there’s a number of studies that show for most conditions genetics are playing a very small role.

As much as there are some people that really like to emphasize that, I don’t agree and I think that it’s way smarter and you’re going to have way better effects by focusing on the environmental, the lifestyle, the nutrition factors, that as the root causes. Then they converge through certain physiological mechanisms, I’d say conventional medicine really likes to, in my view, conflate the physiological mechanisms as causes, but it converges at that level.

We know certain things at the physiological mechanism level or at the biochemical level go wrong, for example, the blood-brain barrier or gut dysbiosis and the gut barrier or mitochondrial dysfunction and so on and so forth. You mentioned a big focus is on the blood-brain barrier. What do you see as the biggest causative factors in terms of lifestyle environment, as far as impacting on the blood-brain barrier?

Seth Conger: Well, Ari, I think you hit it right on the head and the blood-brain barrier is even further downstream than we like to start, and we’re looking upstream with all of this. We’re looking across somebody’s lifestyle because we know that the accumulation of their habits over the past 30-40 years is what’s causing what we’re physiologically seeing or what we’re seeing in their biochemistry, as well when we look at lab tests.

Some of those most important areas and the causes, as you would say, are nutrition, are poor sleep habits, are a really poor mindset, lack of purpose, lack of challenging your brain. We see a lot of different things with that, but I would have to say that the top three in the lifestyle areas are sleep, nutrition and exercise. There’s more papers on exercise and brain function than anything else when it comes to improving brain function and actually showing scores with that. We know that exercise produces more BDNF in the brain, more BDNF- brain-derived neurotrophic factor is an incredible nerve growth factor that can actually produce brain cells and communication, so exercise is so important. The nutrition, this has to– Yes?

Ari Whitten: One second before we go into nutrition. I think it’s worth mentioning that- I’m sure most people are familiar with this idea that exercise has brain benefits.

Seth Conger: Yes.

Ari Whitten: Maybe we take something there for granted because, on one hand, it’s like, “All right, we’ve already heard that. We know that. We accept that.” On the other hand, it’s odd that doing physical exercise which exercises your muscles, and stresses your muscles, and makes your muscles work harder. Of course, it’s common sense to say, “Okay, well, it’s going to make your muscles adapt and make your muscles stronger or improve your muscle endurance or make them grow bigger, et cetera.” But why would it affect our brain? It’s not a brain demanding activity.

Seth Conger: Sure.

Ari Whitten: I’m just curious if you could go into that a little bit. You mentioned BDNF, but why? Why does exercise have benefits on our brain?

Seth Conger: Well, I think when we break this down for most of our clients, they ask that question. “How can this possibly impact our brain?” We say, “Well, the next time you feel depressed, go for a brisk walk or a run and see how you feel afterward. The next time you feel really tired or fatigued in the morning, instead of laying on the couch, go outside and get some cardiovascular output to a certain level where you feel strained and breathing hard and you’ll see that your entire mental state changes.”

There is a physiological mechanism here that just shifts our mental state. There’s many people who talk about this. Tony Robbins says, “If you want to change your mindset, change your physical state.” There’s an incredible amount of mechanisms of action here that allow this to happen to actually change our mental state and change the physiological abilities in the moment.

Longer-term, that has a lot to do with the synaptic plasticity and neuroplasticity of our brain and those connections being made through those nerve growth factors. It’s interesting. There’s different levels of exercise that work for different people. This goes into something that I’m sure we’ll get into talking about it later when we get to lifestyle which is the personalization of this.

If you go out and run for 30 minutes at an eight-minute per mile pace, it may do something completely different for you than somebody who has been sedentary for a very long time and can’t even hit that pace. That may not even get your brain to that point where you need it to, to actually give you that physiological change. It really dives into the personalization of what somebody can handle and what they need to be doing in order to get that desired outcome or desired result that they’re looking for not in a moment, but 3, 6, 12 months down the road and how do we design a program for them that fits their needs now and their goals later.

Ari Whitten: Got it. Well, I interrupted us and set us on a digression there, but-

Seth Conger: No problem.

Ari Whitten: -you were about to jump into nutrition.

Seth Conger: Yes, and it fits the same thing. All of this loop together and they’re all feedback loops as well. When nutrition, we see that almost everything, all these chronic diseases start in the gut. You wouldn’t think that there’s a gut-brain connection, but there absolutely is. What we see in the gut is an incredible amount of gut dysbiosis when we’re looking at individuals with cognitive decline.

When we see that their cognitive scores are outside of the average range, below average, usually we see triggers and biomarkers that are out of whack and out of balance as well in their gut. It could be everything from- we’re finding parasites in there to there’s leaky gut markers. With this, again, there is no specific one diet for every single person. Some people come to us and they choose to be vegetarians. We find a way for them to make sure that they can thrive and get to those goals just as way as people who are interested in eating meat are.

What we try to focus them around is eating clean, eating real live things, shopping around the perimeter of their grocery store, making sure that we’re talking about the different dimensions of nutrition involving time. Not just quality and quantity, but also when they’re going to be eating and if they should be going on a fasting regimen and which would be the best for them.

It’s again about that personalization, but first, it’s really for most of the individuals who are experiencing cognitive decline, it’s about a big education and a complete remapping of their mindset around what food is. It’s not something which just to grab and go and run and satiate our hunger, but rather it’s something to actually fuel our energy, fuel ourselves, our mitochondria to get us functioning well. That is the main shifting mechanism that can change our health trajectory towards the future.

Ari Whitten: Excellent. What does the scientific research look like right now as far as this landscape of neurological disease?

Seth Conger: As far as for nutrition specifically or just across the board for reversal- [crosstalk]

Ari Whitten: Yes, wherever you want to take that. I think we could start with nutrition. It might also be worth talking about- I mean, you mentioned exercise and you mentioned sleep. We can look at I think a few different aspects of that.

Seth Conger: Sure.

Ari Whitten: What does the scientific research look like when it comes to sleep and neurological disease?

Seth Conger: Well, sleep is really interesting. It’s really been hitting the front pages of newspapers and online magazines. Just in the last year or two as it’s gained a little bit more interest from the public of, “Wow, this is not something that we’re just wasting away.” Sleep is actually probably the most important lifestyle piece when it has to do with cognitive decline in your brain function. When you’re sleeping, it is the only time when your brain can actually repair itself.

Your brain does not repair itself during the daytime. Our body has this lymphatic system that flushes out the toxins and takes care of the waste during the day and our brain doesn’t have that. During sleep and certain specific stages of sleep, our brain actually shrinks by about 2% and allows our cerebrospinal fluid to actually flush out toxins and dead cells and it’s called neural pruning at that point.

This doesn’t happen as well if you’re only sleeping six hours a night, or five hours a night, or four hours a night with the use of sleep aids. Sleeping with sleep aids, certain ones, is not the same as deep, restorative, natural sleep. We have an epidemic in the country. My favorite text on this is Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep. It’s just an incredible book that really lays this out. It takes a huge deep dive into Alzheimer’s disease.

A lot of mechanisms of sleep pointing towards risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Now, we know that when you don’t sleep well, you don’t digest your food well. When you don’t sleep well, you don’t recover from the exercise that you did the day before. When you don’t sleep well, you’re then fatigued until the next day. Your brain function, actually your executive function or decision-making, is lower by about 20% to 50% depending on if you lost an hour or two of sleep the night before. You’re going to make poor food choices. You’re going to be too fatigued to exercise. Then the cycle just repeats itself for years and years as people go on. That trio out of sleep and exercise and nutrition is really important.

Where we go into the scientific literature, and sorry I took a little detour to get there, but there’s only a couple of papers right now that are out there that are actually looking at all of the lifestyles in a personalized manner when it comes to improving brain function and reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. There was a case study paper that came out a couple of years ago that I was honored to throw some cases into. This was by Dale Bredesen who wrote The End of Alzheimer’s Disease. That was a hundred cases showing the reversal of cognitive decline and improved brain function across about 20 different medical practices that were using his education, had been educated by him and using similar protocols.

That was really interesting, but the data wasn’t that strong as far as what exactly people were doing, because the medical professionals aren’t research scientists. They don’t have a lab set up. They weren’t set up to track every movement that people were making. We weren’t using the same testing in the beginning in the end across the board. We’re hanging our hat on these case studies. We knew that this was working. We knew that a personalized, proactive approach was getting us great results, but we didn’t have this peer-reviewed randomized trial that everybody wanted. In 2019, at the very tail end in October, Richard Isaacson from the Weill Cornell Alzheimer’s prevention group came out with an incredible paper. This was done over about 10 years of time, it looked at 174 individuals, splitting them up into an at-risk population and a mild cognitive impairment population. They personalized lifestyle programs and precision medicine to each one of the individuals that was in the treatment group. The most interesting piece of that is they had this bar that they called the compliance bar, and they were able to track to see if people were actually compliant with all of the different suggestions that they were giving them. They found out that the cutoff was at 60%, so if individuals were compliant 60% of the time or more with all the suggestions, then in both the at-risk and the MCI group, those individuals improved versus the control group.

The early signs of dementia

Ari Whitten: What’s MCI for people who are unfamiliar?

Seth Conger: Sure. MCI is mild cognitive impairment and that is the step before dementia. If you have MCI, your risk level is over 50% to head towards dementia.

Ari Whitten: Got it.

Seth Conger: With that, we understood that, wow, this personalization is important, but the compliance is even more important. Now, that right there, and they’re going to be doing another study, they’re actually raising money for it right now to have PET scans involved. It’ll be the same type of study, a few tweaks here and there, but now they’re going to have PET scans to actually show, are they reversing the pathology of Alzheimer’s, as well as improving people’s brain function, overall quality of life? Because that is an answer we don’t have yet.

We don’t know if the underlying pathology of the disease is actually being reversed. We know that we’re improving brain function and improving quality of life, for all intents and purposes, sending the disease in a reverse progression, but we don’t know if that underlying pathology– Ari, I can get into that, but it’s a little bit more technical, if you want me to.

The biggest challenge with the pharmalogical approach to Alzheimer’s and dementia

Ari Whitten: No, please. You mentioned sleep, I’m hesitant to interrupt, you’re in a good flow, but a lot of things on my mind that I would like to interject. One of the things that’s interesting to what you were just speaking of there is, I personally don’t necessarily put even that much stock into what you’re getting out there, that we can measure what we think are the specific mechanisms and show that they’ve been reversed.

One example of why I say that is, a few years back, it was thought, all these amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s are the big thing that are causing this disease to progress. For years, there was billions of dollars from pharmaceutical companies investing in developing a drug that would interrupt the biochemical mechanisms of the development of these amyloid plaques.

It’s like, “Okay, we can zero in on these amyloid plaques, see that this chemical, that chemical and this enzyme are involved in the steps of building these plaques. If we can just develop a drug that interrupts one of these enzymes, then we can stop the synthesis of these plaques or slow it down, therefore, reverse the progression of the disease.” What was found when they actually developed a drug that effectively did that is, it did lower the amount of amyloid plaques, but it accelerated the progression of the disease.

My personal bias and inclination is that the symptoms and the functionality are much more meaningful metrics, but if you can also show some meaningful reversal at the cellular level or biochemical level, that’s great too. If somebody’s got normal brain function, and they used to have very poor brain function, I think that’s a lot more meaningful as far as an end result to measure.

Seth Conger: I couldn’t agree with you more. I think it’s important for science and the movement forward to shift the overall thought of, what is this disease? To show that in brain scans, but amyloid was our bad guy for years. $65 billion, 99.6% failure rate in the drug trials. There’s still running drug trials for that, but two of the biggest drug companies have pulled out because they no longer want to spend their money in that area.

I think it’s more important to ask the question, and a lot of the researchers, scientists and clinicians have been asking this question, what’s producing that amyloid in the first place? Why are these brains producing more of it than they should be? When is it starting? That goes back to these different underlying causes that are insulting the brain to cause the brain to produce beta-amyloid plaque or tau proteins. How is this happening? Can we stop those mechanisms of action upstream to cause a downstream effect? That’s where we’re looking.

Ari Whitten: Yes, I agree. I think it’s likely to result in much more benefits to look at things that way. As an aside, it’s worth mentioning, I think a lot of people don’t know this, that we naturally, every single day, accumulate some degree of amyloid in the brain, just through normal daily living. Everybody has some degree of a build-up of these amyloid proteins in the brain, to the point of importance of emphasizing the importance of sleep, every night while we sleep, our brains clear out a lot of the built-up amyloid from that day.

We also know, I’ll add as another layer here, there’s a large body of research, as you were talking about linking sleep, but also there’s a whole body of research linking disrupted circadian rhythm to these neurodegenerative diseases. We know if you have disrupted circadian rhythm, if you don’t have quality sleep, or enough sleep, or a combination of the two, or combination of all of those factors, now, every night when your brain is supposed to be clearing out all of that amyloid and doing all those repair processes, it’s not fully doing it. Let’s say it’s doing only 75% of what should be 100% of the job, but then you do that every night, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, well, it adds up.

Seth Conger: I think that’s the case with all the different lifestyle choices. If you’re not meditating or clearing your mind, you’re dealing with chronic stress year over year over year, it’s going to do the same thing. If you don’t exercise, over time your muscles are going to fatigue. It’s just a compounding effect with all of these. What we’re seeing with cognitive decline is, it’s the king of the chronic diseases, where it’s all of these in combination that have built up over years and decades. The brain is really resilient, but it gets to a point where it just says, “I’ve taken enough. I can’t keep going down this road.”

Ari Whitten: Yes. I think what we’re getting at here is the biggest flaw with the pharmaceutical model and the conventional medical model approach to these chronic diseases, which is, that model works really great in wartime medicine, works really great in emergency medicine. There are certain areas where it’s absolutely miraculous and life-saving, especially in the context of emergency medicine, acute infections, trauma and things like that, but where it’s been almost a universal failure is in the context of chronic diseases of lifestyle.

It’s because what we’re finding over and over again, is that, as you’re saying, this big constellation of multiple variables and dozens of different pathways are adding up in, over a long period of time. When we reduce things down to this one particular process as the “cause” of this disease and we’re going to develop a drug that interrupts this particular pathological biochemical process, it’s almost destined for failure, and it’s 99.6%. I’m sure lots of other diseases of lifestyle have similar failure rates.

I think the story of Dale Bredesen is interesting because I’ve heard him talk about this. I think his wife is a doctor, a researcher, and his wife is of a more naturalistic mindset that is more inclined to– You know him better than I do. I’ve only heard this story one time, but I remember he basically said that his wife, who’s more into nutrition and lifestyle factors, was telling him, “The cure is not going to be in a drug. The cure for Alzheimer’s is not going to be in a drug.” He said, “No, you’re wrong. I’m going to find the cure to this. We’re on the verge of finding the cure.”

He poured his heart and soul for years, and years, and years into developing a drug cure for it, and then eventually realized, “Hey, my wife was pretty smart. She actually had it right, that the cure is not going to be a drug interrupting one specific biochemical pathway.” It’s going to be addressing, in a comprehensive way, all of the environmental lifestyle nutritional factors that are driving the disease processes in the first place.

Seth Conger: You got it. Yes. Dale and his wife are both incredible. What Dale has done for this whole field is just an enormous service. What we’re trying to do is pump more clinical-grade research back into that so that we can all work together to collaborate on finding the right pieces in lifestyle for the right set of people. I think it’s where to bring you back to what we were just talking about with chronic disease.

I think there’s this misconception in a lot of individuals’ minds that the medical system is there to keep them healthy. That’s not what it’s built for. We have a medical system that was built for acute care. It’s focused on disease management. It’s incredible with acute care, you talked about wartime medicine and emergency medicine. That’s what it’s designed for. Right now, 86% of the insurance dollars up until probably the last month and a half were going towards chronic disease.

That’s crazy when we’re using a system for what it was not built for and it doesn’t have anything to do with promoting health. That should be left up to the individual. I think unfortunately, we think of medical insurance different than any other type of insurance. You wouldn’t ever bring your car into the auto mechanic and say, “I want to pay for my oil change with my auto insurance card.”

It’s silly to think about that of the preventive measures that you need to take to keep your car going longer. We pay for those and we never think about it. In health, we believe all that should be on the medical system. We’re trying to educate individuals that they need to be in control of that. Just like financial investing, if you’re investing since age 20, and you’re putting a little bit away every single month, you’re going to be in a really good position by 65, unless of course, you turn 65 on February 1st of this year, but a little bit over time compounds and you’re in a really good position when you try to retire. If you do the same thing at age 60, you have to put so much more into that bucket to get to the same place.

It’s the same thing with health. If you treat your body terribly for years and years and years, and you don’t sleep, and you eat processed foods constantly, and you have high chronic stress and you wonder why these chronic diseases take over. Then you point back to the medical system and say, “Well, they’re failing me.” We want people to start investing in their own health and especially their brain. If you think about it, your brain is the accumulation of all of your education, of all of your relationships, of all of your memories for your entire life. It represents the most important investment you’ve ever had. If you’re not investing back into your brain through your health, you’re putting that investment at severe risk. Unfortunately, that’s what we’re seeing with 70 million Americans falling in that pre-Alzheimer’s category.

Ari Whitten: Wow, 70 million?

Seth Conger: 70 million covers everybody who is at risk through subjective cognitive decline and up until mild cognitive impairment. That doesn’t even count the people who have a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

How to prevent neurological disease

Ari Whitten: What’s the solution? What’s the path forward? Having said that we’re probably not going to see a drug cure for this, what do you think is the real solution?

Seth Conger: I think the solution is a personalized, proactive medicine and lifestyle approach. We believe that everything needs to be personalized to that individual, not just for their genetics. Genetics are, again, like you said, a small percentage of this but in some cases, it does count. What we have to do is personalize this to somebody’s wants, their needs, their abilities, and their goals.

The first question we ever ask is what are your health goals in a year? Where do you want to be in a year? Where do you want to be in three? Where do you want to be in five years? Because if you don’t understand where that person is trying to get, then you can take all these different paths to try to get them there and they’re never going to be happy at the end. We understand that compliance is probably the most important piece of this when we talk about lifestyle.

If somebody is making the changes, they’re going to tend to get better in a large percentage of the time. If they’re not, they’re not going to. We’ve seen this in some great studies of recently. We need to enable that in a way and look outside of the borders of medicine and say, “How can we take behavior change and bring that in behavior design and lifestyle design and bring those into personalized programs to encourage people to actually make these changes that are being set forth by their functional, or integrative, or natural medicine doctors or their personal trainers or their nutritionists or their health coaches?”

We believe that a whole team approach needs to be taken. That needs to be personalized for that individual’s needs, their unique self, and their goals. We’ve designed those programs. They’re not for everybody. They are for people who want a really comprehensive approach, but I think people can do this on their own as long as they can clear through the clutter and all the noise. Then find a signal and realize that they have to define where they are. They need to clearly understand where they are with their health and their brain function.

Most people don’t know that. They know their blood pressure. They know their weight. They know their vitals. Not many people know their brain function. They don’t understand where their memory is against a comparative normal database of their age group or their decision-making skills or their planning abilities, or their attention. They don’t know where they wanted to go, so they just cruise through life in the hope that they’re going to get better or not any worse. When we all have the chance, if we understand a little bit more and we have those goals and we have a purpose behind that, we can absolutely get there with the right design plan.

Ari Whitten: Very nice. What is your specific approach at MIOS Health? I know you guys have a very unique way of structuring things. You’re also unique in that you offer a guarantee on the results that people get, so talk to me about that.

Seth Conger: We do. Yes, that’s the principle that we stand on. We believe, and this is something I am passionate about changing in medicine, I would like to see nothing more than the model change from this paying for codes, and paying for things, and stuff and bottles of things to paying for results. There are some companies out there that are trying to do this right now and are actually seeing some extreme success even in the payer model for things like diabetes and immune conditions. It’s amazing to see this.

Ari Whitten: What does that mean, even in the payer model?

Seth Conger: They’re even running through insurance. They’re making a bet against insurance companies that they don’t have to get paid from the insurance company unless they get somebody better which is just incredible to see that. There’s a lot of data behind it, so they’re making a risk model to get there. What we said when we started MIOS Health was we wanted to be the solution in between the functional medicine and integrative medicine expert doctor who has the education and the expertise, but they don’t have the team, and the implementation, and the technology and all those pieces to help that client get from where they are to where they want to be.

We want to attract and educate those clients to make sure they’re the right fit to work with that doctor and provide them with everything that they need. We decided that we want to stand on this model of paying for results which means from the initial assessment, we can get very clear on where you want to be, where your goals are and where you currently stand.

It’s very easy for us to understand if you do these things, you’re going to be able to get to this point. We create a realistic goal and we measure along the way. You see your progress. Every step, every two weeks we measure your brain function. You wear a continuous glucose monitor and an Oura ring. You actually get to track all these different objective measurements throughout time to see yourself improving even if you don’t feel it yet. It continues this feedback loop of celebration to help people understand that the changes that they’re making are really making positive changes not just for today but for the long term. We can see if somebody’s being compliant or not. If they are, we want to make sure that they are going to get to the result that they want to get to.

All of our programs are for six months. We have different tiers of those programs for whether you’re just interested in lowering your risk for Alzheimer’s or if you actually have subjective cognitive decline. You’re feeling symptoms and you want to improve your brain function, or if you have mild cognitive impairment and you want to change your trajectory completely. We have different levels of programs that are more and more comprehensive along the way, but each one of them, if we get to that six-month mark, if you’ve done the work and we have a technology platform that we’ve built and designed that delivers you daily activities, it has everything you need in there. If we ask you to meditate, you open up the meditation app within our platform instead of going out and saying, “Well, how do I meditate? What am I supposed to do? Should I do transcendental or mindfulness?” We make it really simple with choices for people. If we get to that six-month mark and you haven’t hit those results, we continue working with you for up to another six months at no further cost, until you get to that sustainable result.

Then if we still haven’t gotten there by a year, we refund your entire program fee. Instead of refunding at six months, it’s about the results, if someone’s going to stick with it, they want a result, they don’t want their money back. For us, we’re not in this business unless we can get people results and those results are going to turn into incredible data that can be fed back into the field that just makes everybody better at this and is going to take the whole field and raise it up.

Ari Whitten: Got you. Explain, I guess, another layer of detail as far as how the program works. Let’s say, I guess, first of all, who is it for? I think that might be a good thing. Is it with people with full-blown, they’ve already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or what? Then once that’s in place, let’s say they’re interested, they contact you to work with you and sign up for this program. How exactly does it work?

Seth Conger: It’s for people who are diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, not for people who have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. People with mild cognitive impairment all the way down to individuals who are at risk. That person would be somebody who just had a parent who passed from Alzheimer’s disease. They know that they have a family history of this, that they are at a higher risk of developing the disease someday, but they don’t currently have any symptoms and they feel like they could be doing a little bit more to invest in their own health.

We have a broad spectrum of people we work with. Everything starts with an assessment. We do a simple online cognitive assessment in some subjective validated questionnaires in the first part of the process, just to see where that person actually fits. From there, they can go into any level of assessment that looks at a significant amount of biomarkers. We can do fully at home, 100% virtual take-home tests that look at your overall risk platform for Alzheimer’s disease. Or we can do a thousand biomarker test with MRIs with volumetrics, qEEG’s, for looking at the electrical map of the brain, and many, many more things if somebody wants a real deep dive. That assessment is then interpreted and guided with a functional medicine doctor.

Right now, our doctor is Dr. Helen Messier, who’s an MD PhD in San Jose. She’s absolutely incredible. She does deep dives with tons of people in Silicon Valley and people fly in to see her. You would be working with her to understand that. We basically take 300 pages of data from nine different labs and put it all into one really simple report that breaks it down by system so you can understand how these things are looping back and actually affecting those points of decline.

We say that they’re drivers of your decline, and then how those are going to shift over through a precision personalized treatment plan to get you to those goals that you have stated you want to get to. Then we break down a lifestyle program that’s going to happen over about six months. We assign you a health coach that is really designed around your personality, your behavior types and we have that individual lead you through a guided education program that is customized over those six months, while you’re doing that precision functional medicine treatment at the same time.

All just dripped out at a cadence that works for you and helps you get to those goals that you’re looking for. It’s a very personalized program, a lot of hand-holding, takes all the confusion out of it, and just brings clarity where there used to be not a whole lot of clarity before for these individuals and their families.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Very, very cool. I love what you’re doing. I think it’s very, very innovative. I especially love the results guarantee aspect of it and I think that is incredibly important. We’re in a day and age where there’s so many charlatans out there, there are so many people who are happy to take your money and give you nothing of value in return or give you gimmicky pseudoscience and nonsense in return. There’s so little accountability for stuff that doesn’t work. This is a bit of a digression but I just heard-

Seth Conger: And reporting.

Ari Whitten: Yes, and I just heard actually a guy who’s an MD, Dr. Damania, he’s got a big following online. He’s Mr. Conventional Medicine. This is a guy who bashes everything that is not conventional medicine, is convinced everything outside of conventional medicine must be quackery and nonsense by definition because if it had any evidence to support it, it would already be incorporated into conventional medicine. This kind of belief system, but even he was saying, “Hey, why is it that in the US we spend more money per capita on healthcare and on medical interventions, and yet have some of the lowest, the worst outcomes of any western country?”

This is someone I don’t agree with a lot of what he says, but in this particular video, he was just spot on. He said, “It’s because a lot of these other countries do less, they do less medical interventions.” He was saying explicitly, his words, not mine, he was saying, “A large portion of what we do as medical interventions within conventional medicine don’t work. They don’t really have good data to support that they have strong benefits.” He was really saying, “If you want to improve your health, stay out of the medical system, stay out of the hospitals, take care of your health.”

I thought it was a beautiful shift for someone who’s so hardcore conventional medicine to be saying, “Stay away from us. The best thing you can do for your health is stay away from us, stay out of the medical system so you don’t need our treatments, by protecting your health with nutrition and lifestyle factors.” The fact that he explicitly pointed out that these other countries have better outcomes because they’re receiving less medical care. It’s a whole other topic we could talk about, the role of medical errors and iatrogenic death.

Seth Conger: Right, iatrogenics. You’re right.

Ari Whitten: Unnecessary medical interventions that actually make outcomes worse, which is itself an epidemic, deserves its own hours of conversation to treat those topics with the complexity and nuance they deserve. My point is, what he was saying is really, “Hey, we have so much stuff that we’re doing commonly, so much iatrogenic death, hundreds of thousands of deaths induced by medications and medical errors and we’re not really being held accountable for the results we’re getting.” I think this is a beautiful shift and hopefully, it takes hold and spreads that more and more companies can operate with this level of integrity to say, “Hey, we’re going to guarantee you get results or we’re going to give you your money back.”

I do the same with my own business, all my products have that same guarantee. I get it and I think it’s beautiful that you’re doing that, especially with something where you invest months of services that are already rendered. It’s very difficult to have a guarantee on that when you’ve already invested so many man-hours. I really applaud you for that. I guess I want to ask you, on a final note, is there any other thing you want to mention here before we wrap up?

Seth Conger: No, Ari. I think we covered a whole lot of this. We’re recording this at a very interesting time and we’re seeing a medical pandemic on our hands and we have an obvious villain in COVID-19 that we’re going after. I think that the one thing I would ask of the audience is to broaden their mindset to these chronic diseases, especially Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of neurodegeneration, that we may not have a have villain yet for, but they can take control now and do something for their health that is going to drastically lower their risk down the line.

Invest now in your brain because investing now in your brain will pay off in dividends in extra years of beautiful energy and beautiful vitality and life that you can enjoy with your loved ones down the road. I would like people to invest in their health a little bit more.

Ari Whitten: Beautifully said. If somebody is interested in working with you, what’s the best place to reach out to you and get started?

Seth Conger: Yes, I think on our website, mioshealth.com. You’ll see an Apply Now button in the top right. They can click that and find their way through a little subjective questionnaire that will immediately tell them where they stand. They can go from there to a free 45-minute call, where we just help them understand a little bit of clarity around where they are and where they want to be, which then moves them through the system if they’re going to be the right fit.

We like to have a lot of time with people and give them as much advice and direction as we possibly can before ever having any sort of financial agreement in there. It’s really a service that we want to put out there. That comes from all of us here at our MIOS Health, and our passion for this disease and wanting to change the way we do medicine.

Ari Whitten: Wonderful. The website, again, it’s mioshealth.com?

Seth Conger: Yes. M-I-O-S health dot com.

Ari Whitten: Wonderful. Seth, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your knowledge and letting people know about this really innovative new program that you’re offering for, the huge amount, I didn’t know it was 70 million, that’s pretty mind-blowing to me, the huge amount of people that are dealing with mild cognitive impairment and are at risk for developing Alzheimer’s and dementia. Thank you again for coming on the show. This was a lot of fun, and I hope we can talk more in the future.

Seth Conger: Thank you, Ari. I appreciate everything you do.

Show Notes

The most common precursors and causes of Alzheimer’s (4:25)
How lifestyle and nutrition choices play into brain-related disease (9:43)
The early signs of dementia (23:51)
The biggest challenge with the pharmacological approach to Alzheimer’s and dementia (25:12)
How to prevent neurological disease (36:27)

Links

Learn more about Seth’s work here. 

Learn more about ways to get your brain working in the podcast with Dr. Datis Kharrazian

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