Updated: Jun 4
Alzheimer's is a form of dementia, a brain disease that causes memory, thinking, and behavior problems. It is not a normal part of aging but age is a risk factor. Most people start to show symptoms around the age of 65. There is currently no cure, and once symptoms start to show they progressively get worse.
This disease is one of the top fears people have when it comes to aging, whether it is for themselves or a loved one. The percentage of people in the U.S. with dementia in 2014 was 1.6 percent or 5 million individuals.
Even though nutrition cannot reverse this disease or prevent it fully, it can play a part in how it develops.
Although genetics and biology may put us at a disadvantage, our lifestyle can either improve or worsen our odds.
Some of the risk factors for developing dementia and Alzheimer's are diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, inflammation, and heart disease. A standard American diet can worsen these conditions, which could indirectly worsen the odds of developing Alzheimer's.
Although new and still needing intensive studies, current research suggests that diets high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties support healthy cognition. This would include, fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, beans, nuts, and fish.
Replacing fast food, red meats, and sweets with these foods could improve memory and cognitive function, as well as mood.
There is no guarantee that these foods will 100% keep you from developing dementia, but they could help slow the disease. Plus, they may help you think more clearly day to day and feel more energized.
If you would like to read more about possible prevention and what the research currently says, check out this article!
Nutrition Tips For Those Who Have Been Diagnosed
If you have been diagnosed with some form of dementia or you know someone who has, mealtime can become a source of anxiety. Dementia can cause a loss of appetite and weight loss, so proper nutrition and hydration can become extra important.
One tip to help increase water and nutrition at the same time is to eat foods that already have a decent amount of water such as fruits, soups, smoothies, etc.
As with the preventative tips, a diverse diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fish may help with symptoms. Unfortunately, as of right now there is no cure, but proper nutrition and exercise may help slow it down depending on the individual.
Lower sodium intake. Excessive sodium can raise blood pressure, which can worsen symptoms.
If you are taking care of someone, be ready to help them but allow them to do what they can. Dementia can be very dehumanizing for the person, so allow them to be as independent as possible. If they can feed themselves (even if it's just by hand instead of with utensils) let them do it as you monitor them so they can keep as much selfhood as they can.
For middle and late-stage Alzheimer's, prepare foods that are easy to chew and swallow. Although reducing refined sugar is recommended in the early stages due to a lack of nutritional value, a decrease in appetite in the later stages may be overcome with added sugar. At a certain point, the goal is to eat something so don't feel guilty if adding some sugar is the only thing that will get them to eat.
If you would like to read more tips the Alzheimer's Association has for caregivers and those suffering, check out this link.
If you would like more personalized guidance on improving your brain health through nutrition, schedule a free 30-minute discovery call with Danielle here!