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Good Nutrition for Brain Health & Its Impact on Alzheimer's Disease
Sep 23, 2019 by Stephanie Howe - Owner, Comfort Keepers
Unfortunately, senior citizens are faced with numerous health issues as they age. One, in particular, is especially alarming - Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's disease is an incurable, progressive, fatal disease that typically strikes in the elderly, but can present itself in adults as young as age 40.
This disease is considered the most common form of dementia, which refers to a series of diseases that cause cognitive decline, affecting the person's memory and intellectual ability to the point where it interferes with their daily living activities.
Alzheimer's disease is particularly aggressive, causing memory loss in its patients, and also affecting their thinking and behavior. In the United States, Alzheimer's disease currently affects more than 5 million people, a number that is estimated to grow to 7.1 million by 2025.
While there are numerous risk factors for Alzheimer's that the public is aware of, including family history, genetics, and head injuries - there is one major risk factor that doesn't seem to get as much attention. That risk factor is the possible link between Alzheimer's and vascular disease, meaning that paying attention to your heart health is more important now than ever.
Since brain function is fed oxygen and nutrients by the vascular system, it is imperative that the vascular system is functioning well. If not, the brain is deprived of oxygen and essential nutrients, which can lead to disease in the brain - such as dementia.
Research shows that the very risk factors for vascular disease - hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol- are risk factors for Alzheimer's, as well.
Reducing Your Risk of Alzheimer's Disease With Healthy Brain Food
While it's true that a person does not have any control over family history or genetics, there are steps of action that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, such as abiding by a brain-healthy diet.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, a brain-healthy diet can be defined 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."
The Alzheimer's Association recommends increasing intake of foods that have proven to protect brain cells, such as the ones found in the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet (which aims to reduce blood pressure.) Additionally, their suggestions for healthy eating include:
- Generally, dark-skinned fruits and vegetables have the highest levels of naturally occurring heart-healthy antioxidants, such as B vitamins. Such veggies include green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, along with brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, beets, and eggplant. Fruits with high antioxidant levels include berries (which are said to contain flavonoid antioxidants) such as blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, along with prunes, raisins, plums, 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.
- Consume whole grains (such as brown rice), poultry, nuts, and fish - more specifically, cold-water fish (tuna, salmon, halibut, mackerel, and trout) that contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.
- Limit intake of red meat and replace butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil.
It's important to note that studies have not been able to definitively state just how much of these brain foods are required to cause a noticeable impact on a person's risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, there is some reliable data that shows that older women who primarily eat cruciferous vegetables and leafy greens seem to demonstrate the mental functioning that is two years younger than their counterparts who do not eat many of these mentioned veggies. Thus, incorporating as many of these brain-healthy foods as possible into your diet for brain benefits and brain power is recommended.
Overall, following a healthy mind diet, along with being both physically and socially active, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting the intake of alcohol, could offer substantial health benefits such as improving cognitive function and very well make a difference in reducing the risk of dementia or Alzheimer's.
For additional tips and information, and learn how Comfort Keepers Monroe can assist with Alzheimer's and dementia patients, please contact us today at (732) 521-1777.
Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). Adopt a Brain-Healthy Diet.
Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). Alzheimer's Facts and Figures.
Alzheimer’s Association. (n.d.). Food, Eating and Alzheimer's.