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Diet and the Prevention of Alzheimer's
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that causes degeneration of brain cells and their connections, impairing memory and other mental processes. Though this disease occurrence increases with age, Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. In older adults, it is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other cognitive functions serious enough to interfere with daily life, and gets worse with time. 

September is World Alzheimer’s Month, which is geared towards raising awareness and challenging the stigma that surrounds Alzheimer’s and dementia. There are numerous things that your loved one can do to help prevent and slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Many studies suggest that what we eat affects the aging brain’s ability to think and remember.

In Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation and insulin resistance injure your brain cells (or neurons) and inhibit communication with one another. Making alterations in your diet can help prevent this inflammation and increase the communication between brain cells.

One change that you and your loved one can make to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease is the incorporation of the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet has been associated with numerous cognitive benefits. This diet limits red meats, saturated fats, and refined sugars while encouraging whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, and healthy fats like nuts and olive oil.

The MIND diet, short for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, is a variation of the Mediterranean diet that incorporates the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which has been shown to lower high blood pressure, a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies have shown that this diet can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 53 percent as well as slow cognitive decline and improve verbal memory.

Here are the elements included in the MIND diet, which include 10 brain-healthy food groups and five unhealthy groups:

Healthy:

  • Beans (black, pinto, kidney): at least 3 servings/week
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries): at least of 2 servings/week
  • Fish (salmon, tuna, trout): at least 1 serving/week
  • Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, collard greens, lettuce): at least 6 servings/week
  • Nuts (almonds, cashews, pistachios): at least 5 servings/week
  • Poultry (chicken, turkey): at least 2 servings/week
  • Olive oil as the primary oil used
  • Whole grains (quinoa, oatmeal, brown rice, whole-grain pasta and bread): a minimum of 3 servings a day
  • Wine: at most 1 glass/day

Unhealthy:

  • Butter and stick margarine: no more than 1 TBS daily
  • Cheese (brie, mozzarella, cheddar): no more than 1 serving/week
  • Fast or fried foods (French fries, chicken nuggets, onion rings): no more than 1 serving/week
  • Pastries and sweets (cakes, brownies, ice cream): no more than 5 servings/week
  • Red meats (steak, ground beef, pork, lamb): no more than 4 servings/week
Research suggests that employing the MIND diet over a number of years helps reduce the risk of developing dementia, and slows the deterioration of mental processes. Our Happier at Home caregivers can help to grocery shop for these foods, and help make a delicious, mindful meal!
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