Can The Right Diet Prevent Dementia?

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As researchers discover many components that heal or protect our bodies in the foods we eat, there is growing interest in foods that can protect our minds. There are areas around the world where rates of dementia among the elderly are much lower than they are in the U.S. What are some dietary patterns that are beneficial and may protect against cognitive decline?

Dementia Prevention through Diet

Less Meat

A Columbia University study in 2010, published in the Archives of Neurology, followed participants living in New York and identified the following dietary pattern as being protective against the development of Alzheimer’s: higher consumption of nuts, fish, tomatoes, poultry, cruciferous vegetables, fruits, and dark green leafy vegetables, and lower intakes of high-fat dairy, red meat, organ meat, and butter.

The residents of Okinawa, Japan have much lower rates of dementia among the elderly, even among those well into their 90s, and enjoy the longest disability-free life expectancy in the world. Dietary intake typically includes high consumption of vegetables, particularly the dark green leafy type (7 servings daily), grains, fruits, legumes and soy products, seaweed, green tea, and fish. There is very little meat or eggs in the overall diet.

More Omega-3 Fatty Acids 

There’s also a link between higher consumption of omega-3-rich foods and lower risk of cognitive decline. While the optimal ratio discussed in the literature ranges from a 1:1 to 4:1 ratio (of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids), the typical North American has a pattern of consumption closer to a 16:1 ratio. Such high levels of omega-6 fatty acids push metabolic processes that result in pro-inflammatory substances.

Fish is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids, particularly DHA, which has been shown to protect and even competitively counter the production of omega-6 derived eicosanoids in the brains of Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Vitamins C, D, and E

Vitamins C and E are well-known antioxidant vitamins. Vitamin C is water-soluble and found in most fruits and vegetables (particularly the brightly colored ones), while Vitamin E is fat-soluble and found mostly in vegetable oils, seeds such as sunflower seeds, and nuts such as almonds. The antioxidant vitamins can help mitigate the effect of oxidative stress, that is associated with Alzheimer’s. In addition, nuts are high in monounsaturated fats, which have an inhibitory effect on many pro-inflammatory metabolic pathways in the body.

How does Vitamin D help maintain a healthy nervous system? It plays a big role in ensuring the nerves can relay messages between the brain and the rest of the body. Vitamin D also helps inhibit certain pro-inflammatory metabolic pathways. Sun exposure is a big factor in ensuring Vitamin D production among Okinawans, as they typically stay very active, and many centenarians still farm! Fatty fish, a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, are also high in Vitamin D. Other sources of Vitamin D are mushrooms and fortified dairy products.

The Power of the B-Vitamins

The group of B-vitamins, particularly Vitamins B6, B12, and folate play an important and interconnected role in ensuring a healthy, functioning nervous system. Whole grains and legumes are high in the B-vitamins, and folate can be found in dark green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits. A 2010 study from the University of Oxford found that participants who took supplements containing Vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid lowered their blood levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s. Another benefit of whole grains and soy products such as tofu is that they contain micronutrients such as copper and manganese, which are needed for the body’s antioxidant processes.

Phytonutrients: Antioxidant Power from Plants

Virtually all plant foods contain phytonutrients, which are potent antioxidants; some of the most familiar include lycopene, anthocyanin, lutein, and various carotenoids. Spices and herbs are increasingly studied for their antioxidant potential. In particular, turmeric – a seasoning popular in South and Southeast Asian cuisine – contains curcumin, which has been shown to activate enzymes that protect brain cells against oxidative damage, inflammation, and cell death. The green tea catechin EGCG protects neurons against oxidative damage.

The Bottom Line

The dietary patterns identified as being protective against the development of Alzheimer’s show an emphasis on minimally processed foods, mostly from plants, with unsaturated fats, particularly monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. The focus on these antioxidant-filled foods is very much in line with the type of diet recommended for many other chronic conditions caused by too much inflammation or oxidative damage in the body, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

While some omega-6 fatty acids are still needed in the foods we eat, most of us eat way too much. One of the quickest ways to reduce the omega-6 fatty acid levels in your diet is to cut down your reliance on most processed foods, which tend to use oils high in omega-6 fatty acids, such as corn, cottonseed, or soybean oil.

**Healthy eating is the best way to protect/prevent yourself from the development of diseases/illnesses.  Dementia is a very sad and difficult disease for everyone to deal with; the patient, family, friends, and caretaker.   My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers at the age of 59, by the time she was 64 she was no longer able to speak, walk or eat.  Mom is still with us physically, but mentally not so much.  Even though mom is still here, I feel as though I have lost my best friend.

Reliv’s ReversAge is a great product for aging adults, it supports mental focus, memory and brain repair, as well as addressing aging at every level.  It does not eliminate dementia, but if taken early enough it may slow down the process.  I wish Reliv was in my life before mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers, she may still be with us mentally..

Thank you all for visiting my blog and PLEASE visit again soon.  Don’t forget to follow me on facebook.

If you’re interested in having your loved ones try ReverAge or would like additional information, visit www.relivinglifehealthy.com

-Wendy Millington

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Exercise for the Elderly

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The benefits of exercise throughout life are often touted. But is it safe for seniors older than 65 years to exercise? Absolutely. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians almost all older people can benefit from additional physical activity. Regular exercise protects from chronic disease, improves mood and lowers chances of injury.

With age, the body does take a little longer to repair itself, but moderate physical activity is good for people of all ages and of all ability levels. In fact, the benefits of your elderly parents exercising regularly far outweigh the risks. Even elderly people with chronic illnesses can exercise safely. Many medical conditions are improved with exercise, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure and obesity.

Regular exercise provides a myriad of health benefits in your mom and dad, including improvements in blood pressure, diabetes, lipid profile, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and neuro-cognitive function. Regular exercise improves:

Immune Function – A healthy, strong body fights off infection and sickness more easily and more quickly. Rather than sapping energy reserves entirely, recovery from illness should be less strenuous.

Cardio-Respiratory and Cardiovascular Function – Regular physical activity lowers risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. If the elderly person has hypertension, exercise will lower blood pressure.

Bone Density/Osteoporosis – Exercise protects against loss in bone mass. Better bone density will reduce the risk of osteoporosis and lowers risk of falling and broken bones. Post-menopausal women can lose as much as 2 percent bone mass each year and men also lose bone mass as they age. Research done at Tufts University shows that strength training can dramatically reduce the loss of bone mass, help restore bones, and contribute to better balance and less fractures.

Gastrointestinal Function – Regular exercise promotes the efficient elimination of waste and encourages digestive health.

Chronic Conditions and Cancer – Regular physical activity lowers risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis and colon cancer, to name just a few. It also helps in the management of high cholesterol and arthritis pain.

Regular physical activity is also associated with decreased mortality and age-related morbidity in older adults. In addition, a study by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society examined  exercise in the elderly and found that exercise training led to improvement in functional reach, balance and fear of falling.

Often, frail elderly people are unable to tolerate aerobic exercise routines on a regular basis due to lack of endurance. But while age-related changes in the cardiovascular system have significant effects on cardiac performance, it has been estimated that 50% of endurance loss can be related to decreased muscle mass.

The ideal exercise prescription for the elderly consists of three components: aerobic exercise, strength training, and balance and flexibility.

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Thanks for visiting my blog.

Wendy Millington

www.relivinglifehealthy.com

Are the Seniors in Your Life Eating Well?

Eating well is important at any age. But health issues and physical limitations sometimes make it difficult for seniors, the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, to get the nutrients they need for a balanced diet. Poor nutrition and malnutrition occur in 15 to 50 percent of the elderly population. But the symptoms of malnutrition (weight loss, disorientation, lightheadedness, lethargy and loss of appetite) can easily be mistaken for illness or disease. If you are a full- or part-time caretaker for an elderly parent or grandparent, there are plenty of steps you can take to help your loved ones maintain good nutrition as they age.

Whether it’s because of physical limitations or financial hardship, many seniors don’t eat as well as they should. Arthritis can make cooking difficult, while certain medications can reduce appetite, making meals unappealing. A 1990 survey by Ross Laboratories found that 30 percent of seniors skip at least one meal a day, while another study found that 16 percent of seniors consume fewer than 1000 calories a day, which is insufficient to maintain adequate nutrition. There are many reasons why a senior may skip a meal, from forgetfulness to financial burden, depression to dental problems, and loneliness to frailty.

Possible Causes of Poor Nutrition
The best ways to find out why your loved one isn’t eating well are to pay attention, look for clues and ask questions. Encourage him to talk openly and honestly, and reassure him that he is not a burden to you or anyone else. Some of the most common reasons for poor nutrition in the elderly include:

  • Decrease in sensitivity. The aging process itself is a barrier to good nutrition since it is common to for appetites to diminish as a person ages. A decline in the senses of smell and taste also affect a person’s ability to taste and enjoy food. If a meal isn’t appetizing, a senior is less likely to eat as much as he should.
  • Side effects of medication. Certain medications (whether over-the-counter or prescription) can reduce appetite, cause nausea, or make food taste differently. If a senior doesn’t feel hungry due to medication side effects, she is less likely to eat even though her body does need food and calories.
  • Poor dental health. Seniors are more likely to suffer from dental problems. Ill-fitting dentures, jaw pain, mouth sores and missing teeth can make chewing painful. All of these factors make it increasingly difficult for the elderly to eat healthy foods.
  • Financial burden. Many seniors are on fixed or limited incomes. If he is worried about money, a senior may cut back on grocery expenses or buy cheaper and less-nutritious foods to stretch his budget. Lacking money to pay for adequate foods can result in a host of nutrition problems.
  • Lack of transportation. Shopping today is also more difficult with many food stores located in large shopping malls and on crowded streets. In order to go grocery shopping, a senior must drive to the store, navigate through heavy traffic and park far away from the door. Add snow and ice to the mix and you have a very treacherous situation for the elderly.
  • Physical difficulty. Seniors can become frail as they age, especially when dealing with debilitating conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis, vertigo (dizziness) and disability. Physical pain and poor strength can make even simple tasks (opening a can, peeling fruit, and standing long enough to cook a meal) too challenging.
  • Forgetfulness. Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and poor memory can hurt a senior’s ability to eat a variety of foods on a regular schedule and remember what to buy at the store. One may keep eating the same foods over and over without realizing it, or skip meals entirely because she doesn’t know the last time that she ate.
  • Depression. As people age, life can become more difficult. Their loved ones may be gone (or far away), their body may be failing them, even if their mind is sharp, and loneliness can take its toll. Feeling blue or depressed can decrease one’s appetite, or make him feel apathetic about caring for his health. Depression is a manageable disease when treated correctly, but left untreated it can lead to many other nutrition and health problems.

If you are concerned about the diet of an elderly person in your life, here are some practical tips to ensure he or she is getting proper nutrition:

Offer nutritionally-dense foods. Since many seniors aren’t eating as much as they should, the food they do eat must be as nutritious as possible. Encourage whole, unprocessed foods that are high in calories and nutrients for their size. Some examples include: healthy fats (nut butters, nuts, seeds and olive oil), whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat bread, oats and whole grain cereals), fresh fruits and vegetables (canned and frozen are also good choices), and protein-rich beans, legumes and meat and dairy products. This will help ensure that they are getting all the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain proper health.

Enhance aromas and flavors. Appealing foods may help stimulate appetite, especially in someone whose senses of taste and smell aren’t what they used to be. Seniors can intensify flavors with herbs, marinades, dressings and sauces. Switching between a variety of foods during one meal can also keep the meal interesting. Try combining textures, such as yogurt with granola, to make foods seem more appetizing.

Make eating a social event. Many seniors who live alone or suffer from depression may stop cooking meals, lose their appetites, and depend on convenience foods. If you are worried that your parent or grandparent isn’t eating properly, make meals a family occasion. Bring a hot meal over to her home or invite her to your house on a regular basis. She may become more interested in food when other people are around.

Encourage healthy snacking. Many seniors don’t like to eat large meals or don’t feel hungry enough to eat three full meals a day. One solution is to encourage or plan for several mini-meals throughout the day. If this is the case, make sure each mini-meal is nutritionally-dense with plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Whole grains and fortified cereals are a good source of folate, zinc, calcium, Vitamin E and Vitamin B12, which are often lacking in a senior’s diet. Cut back on prepared meats, which are high in sodium and saturated fat.

Take care of dental problems. Maintaining proper oral health can enhance nutrition and appetite. Make sure dentures fit properly and problems like cavities and jaw pain are being properly managed. Insurance plans, including Medicare, cover certain dental procedures.

Consider government assistance. Home-delivered meals, adult daycare, nutrition education, door-to-door transportation, and financial assistance programs are available to people over the age of 60 who need help. For more information, visit the U.S. Administration on Aging website at www.AOA.gov.

Take them to the store. If lack of transportation is an issue, take your loved on to the grocery yourself. You can also hire a helper or neighbor to do this if you aren’t available. Another option is to order his groceries for him, either from local grocers that make home deliveries (for an additional fee) or from an online grocery website. Many seniors might not be savvy enough to order food from the internet, but you could schedule a regular order for them so that groceries will be delivered right to their doorsteps. Check out the following sites: www.NetGrocer.com, www.Groceries-Express.com, and www.DrugStore.com.

Give reminders. If poor memory is interfering with good nutrition, schedule meals at the same time each day and give visual and verbal reminders about when it’s time to eat.

Maintain food storage. Keep extra food on-hand in case of an emergency. Elderly people who live alone should keep some canned and non-perishable foods in the cupboard in case weather or health problems make it difficult to go shopping.

by Wendy Millington

www.relivinglifehealthy.com

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