Health experts have yet to pinpoint the definite cause of Alzheimer’s disease. It has always been determined to be the combination of age-related brain changes along with genetics, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
Granted, there are various foods and specific diet plans that can help prevent dementia from developing. However, new studies revealed that your food choice could also increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as you grow older.
In fact, it’s not just the food you eat but also how you combine specific food products that may affect your brain’s function and increase your likelihood of having Alzheimer’s in the future.
Here’s a rundown on the connection between food and Alzheimer’s disease and what diet plans seniors in Alzheimer’s assisted living can try to combat the disease.
Food, Diet, and Alzheimer’s Risk
It’s no secret that lifestyle is a significant contributor to increasing one’s risks of getting any chronic diseases, specifically dementia and Alzheimer’s. This includes your vices, sleep quality, stress management, and of course, the food you eat daily.
According to studies, eating sugary snacks, processed foods, and starchy products can significantly increase your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease over time. Furthermore, health experts say that it’s not just the amount of unhealthy food you eat that can affect your brain, but also the lack of healthy food in your system.
The food you eat can affect your brain and body function in many ways, resulting in neurodegenerative diseases in the near future. Some of these direct and indirect mechanisms include:
- The preservatives in processed foods increase the number of free radicals (toxic to cells in large amounts) in the brain, causing rapid brain aging and damaged cells.
- Consuming more unhealthy foods means fewer antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals go in the brain cells, leading to rapid cognitive decline.
- Unhealthy foods lead to chronic illnesses (e.g., diabetes, heart diseases) that are all risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Sugary and starchy snacks disrupt gut health, influencing the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Fortunately, the right foods can also save you from falling into the traps of dementia and its other forms. Many studies already prove that following a healthy diet improves brain health and cognition.
Diet Plans for Seniors to Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
There might not be a single food that can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but healthy eating habits paired with lifestyle changes can definitely decrease your risk of developing brain disorders. Here are some scientifically proven diet plans associated with increased cognitive benefits and brain health.
1. Mediterranean Diet
You probably already heard about the Mediterranean diet in your or your loved one’s Alzheimer’s assisted living community. It has received a lot of hype lately due to recent studies proving that the said diet is the best strategy to maintain the health of your aging body and mind.
Studies suggest that the Mediterranean diet promotes eating foods that can prevent you from developing dementia, heart diseases, obesity, and hypertension. Here’s how you can follow this strategy started by the Greeks:
- Focusing on plant-based meals containing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, herbs, and spices.
- Occasionally consuming seafood, poultry, and dairy products.
- Getting healthy fats from fatty fish (e.g., salmon, mackerel), nuts, and seeds.
- Using olive oil to prepare meals instead of butter and canola.
- Some lean meat for protein.
Lastly, the Mediterranean diet also limits (but not prohibits) you from eating pastries, red meat, comfort foods, and carbonated drinks.
2. DASH Diet
According to research, heart-healthy diets also benefit both the mental and cognitive aspects of the brain, making the DASH diet an excellent regime to follow for seniors.
DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet was specifically made for older adults who want to prevent or control their blood pressure. To do that, seniors need to eat fewer foods high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium to maintain healthy blood circulation.
The DASH diet promotes foods rich in essential vitamins, minerals (calcium and magnesium), protein, and fiber. This includes:
- Vegetables, fresh or frozen fruits, and low-fat dairy.
- Poultry, fish, nuts, and whole grains.
- Use herbs and spices to flavor your meals.
- Fresh or frozen lean meat.
- Less to no salt in cooking dishes.
Like the Mediterranean diet, there are no strict rules to follow here, just that you limit consumption of sweets, fats, red meat, and processed foods.
3. MIND Diet
The MIND or Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet follows an eating regimen that incorporates the best practices of both the Mediterranean and DASH diet. In addition, it aims to lower or prevent high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for Alzheimer’s.
Many research studies found the MIND diet to be the best and most optimal eating strategy to prevent the cognitive decline of seniors.
It follows a specific plan that encourages older adults to eat foods belonging to particular groups scientifically linked to prevent and stave off Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This includes:
- At least six servings of green, leafy vegetables per week.
- Add at least one serving of non-starchy vegetable varieties (e.g., carrots, spinach, broccoli).
- Fresh or frozen berries
- Olive oil
- Whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa.
- Fatty fish
- Beans or lentils
- Poultry like skinless and fatless chicken, preferably baked, grilled, or broiled.
- One glass of red wine daily.
Additionally, you should limit consuming fast or fried foods, sweets, cheese, butter or margarine, and red meat.
Research also suggests that following the MIND diet will improve memory and overall brain function as you get older. So if you want to protect and preserve your cognitive prowess, consider changing your eating habits into healthy ones.
Preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia includes changing lifestyle habits, specifically your diet. Even seniors in Alzheimer’s assisted living communities would greatly benefit from following these healthy diets.
Of course, you or your loved one would have a higher chance of delaying or preventing the disease by pairing these diet plans with regular exercise, sufficient rest, and good stress management.