The following article was provided by Scott Alme, VP of Business Development, Culinary Services Group. Thank you Scott for sharing!
Reducing Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
While a person may not have any control over genetics or family history, he or she can take action that may reduce the risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease, including following a brain- healthy diet. The Alzheimer’s Association defines a brain-healthy diet as “one that reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes, encourages good blood flow to the brain, and is low in fat and cholesterol.” They recommend increasing the intake of foods that can protect brain cells, and list the following recommendations on their website:
In general, dark-skinned fruits and vegetables have the highest levels of naturally occurring antioxidant levels. Such vegetables include kale, spinach, brussel sprouts, alfalfa sprouts,
broccoli, beets, red bell pepper, onion, corn, and eggplant. Fruits with high antioxidant levels include prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, red grapes, and cherries.
Cold-water fish (halibut, mackerel, salmon, trout and tuna) contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
Some nuts can be a useful part of the diet; almonds, pecans and walnuts are a good source of
vitamin E, an antioxidant. (Alzheimer’s Association, Adopt a Brain-Healthy Diet)
While studies have not been able to definitively state exactly how much of these brain foods are required to have a noticeable affect on a person’s risk of acquiring Alzheimer’s disease, there are some data that show that older women who eat primarily leafy green and cruciferous vegetables demonstrate mental functioning that is two years younger than their counterparts who do not eat many of these vegetables. Therefore, incorporating as many of these brain- healthy foods into the diet as possible is recommended.
Following a brain-healthy diet, along with being socially and physically active, limiting the intake of alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight, could very well mean the difference between acquiring Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia or aging gracefully.
Nutrition and the Alzheimer’s Patient
It is also vitally important that seniors who already have Alzheimer’s disease practice healthy nutritional habits to help them stay healthy and independent as long as possible. Foods high in cholesterol, saturated fat, sodium, and refined sugar should be greatly limited or eliminated. They should also eat a good variety of foods to ensure an adequate nutritional balance.
An additional problem that needs to be accounted for, however, is that Alzheimer’s patients may be faced with additional challenges that interfere with maintaining a healthy diet. As the disease progresses the person may have difficulty with dexterity and may not be able to handle cutlery
and utensils easily; the person may not recognize foods or may forget when he or she last ate. Other obstacles to eating well include mouth pain due to poor-fitting dentures or other mouth problems the person is not able to communicate; lack of exercise, which reduces the appetite; a reduced sense of taste and smell; medications that interfere with the appetite; changes in perception that make it difficult for the person to distinguish food from a plate; and distractions that keep the person from eating.