Nutrition and Alzheimer’s Disease: A brief guide

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The following article is contributed by Donna Jawad, Community Outreach Specialist at the Michigan Center for Contextual Factors in Alzheimer’s Disease (MCCFAD). It has been edited for style

As we learn more about Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, one should keep in mind that though we have not yet found a cure, there are important steps we can take to achieve good brain health.  Remember what we do today helps us later!

Eat healthy

This does not mean never indulge – moderation and on occasion are two words to always remember. Helpful resources for healthy eating maybe found at eatright.org or choosemyplate.gov 

  • High intake plant foods
  • Moderate consumption of dairy products, fish, poultry
  • Use olive or vegetable oil as primary dressing
  • Low to moderate intake of wine
  • Low intake of red meat
  • Very low intake of processed foods
  • Very low intake of sugars

Stay active 

This does not mean you have to join a gym or purchase fancy work out equipment. Remember before starting any new exercise routine check with your doctor first.

  • 30-minute walks five days a week is a great start to successful brain health
  • If walking is not for you try some chair exercises visit – go4life.nia.nih.gov
  • There are many free tools and apps that you can check out on line

Be social

This does not mean the you can never have alone time. But too much alone time is not healthy. Positive interaction stimulates the brain and helps it to stay sharp. Social engagement also protects against anxiety, stress and depression as stated by Renee Gadwa, M.B.A.

  • Research shows that we should engage in social activity at least 13 times a month. 
  • Invite family and friends over if you do not like to or are unable to go out 
  • Participate in mosque/church events and gatherings. 
  • Volunteer 

Sleep

Sleeping a little extra may be good for you after all. 

  • 7-9 hours of sleep helps you wake up refreshed and is needed for good brain health

Challenge your brain

Keeping your brain healthy means keeping your brain challenged.

  • Volunteer 
  • Read
  • Learn something new
  • Play an instrument 
  • Puzzles 
  • Sudoku 
  • Crossword puzzles

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Nutrition and Alzheimer’s 

One of the most difficult challenges for a someone who cares for a family member with Alzheimer’s is knowing that s/he has adequate nutritional intake. 

In the beginning there may be no change in the persons eating habits. As the disease progresses, however, we may notice that the person we care for forgets to eat, does not want to eat or finds it difficult to eat. They may have lost weight, become dehydrated or have low blood pressure.

 

 Some of tips from the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org) below maybe of help 

  • If the person resists using a spoon or fork, don’t force the issue. Some people may have vision or motor problems that make using a spoon or fork difficult. Serve food that can be easily eaten, such as finger foods. Prepare foods the person likes and don’t worry too much about how the food is eaten.
  • Offer food more often, including healthy mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.
  • Set aside enough time for meals. The person may take longer to eat.
  • Limit choices, which can be confusing. Serve meals in courses, one food at a time.
  • Make sure the person’s dentures fit properly. Uncomfortable dentures can make eating painful and keep the person from eating enough.
  • If the person is losing weight, consider adding a liquid nutrition drink, such as Ensure, to his or her diet. Ask your pharmacist or doctor for more information.
  • Eat with the person for whom you care. Eating with someone often makes the activity more inviting and pleasurable.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s website now features a COVID-19 support section includes updates on 24/7 support, resources and tips about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for people living with dementia, caregivers and families: https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/coronavirus-covid-19

References: 5 Ways to Protect Your Memory from Dementia, Renee Gadwa, M.B.A., Alzheimer’s Association, National Institute for Health (NIH) – National Institute on Aging.

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