There are things you can do to help prevent the onset of dementia. Regular exercise can help someone with the disease maintain their independence longer as their cognitive function declines. Studies show that a stressful lifestyle can increase your chances of developing the disease. In the fall of 2017, Researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine identified a mental exercise that reduces the risk of dementia called “speed of processing.”
Most notably, your diet can play a significant part in keeping dementia at bay, and if you have already started to see the signs of dementia onset, it can help to delay further symptoms as long as possible.
It is essential to know what foods can help you stave off the symptoms of dementia and why these foods can help.
This list can help you get started on the path to a healthier diet that will help you in combating dementia.
Food to Help you Fight Dementia
Leafy GreensYou will get the most benefit from leafy greens if they are raw, as the cooking process reduces most of the nutritional benefits. A joint study by Rush University Medical Center and Tufts University found that participants who had at least one serving of leafy greens such as Kale, lettuce, and spinach a day slowed brain aging by 11 years. These greens are packed with antioxidants, Vitamin K, and folate, as well as B9. Working together, this combination of nutrients can help maintain a healthy mind well into old age.
NutsNuts are another way to get your daily dose of antioxidants. They also contain healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids that help protect the brain. Walnuts are particularly high in omega-3s. Make sure that when eating nuts, you choose unsalted varieties. Nuts are also an essential component of the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) Diet that demonstrated in a Rush University Medical Center study to reduce the risk of dementia by as much as 53 percent.
While all berries seem to affect the health of the brain, blueberries have been studied more extensively than any other, as they seem to have the most positive effects. Studies by the American Chemical Society found that a group of participants, aged 68 and older, who were given blueberries compared to a placebo group, “demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts.” Blueberries, unlike other berries, contain flavonoids, which keep the brain from aging as fast. It does this by keeping neural pathways in the brain active.
Beans not only help with regular body functions, but they also help to keep the neurons in the brain firing as they are supposed to. They are filled with nutrients, such as folate, magnesium, iron and potassium. B vitamin, and choline. This vitamin helps to maintain proper levels of acetylcholine, which improves brain function.
Sunflower and Pumpkin SeedsThese seeds can be a perfect snack and are great for maintaining brain health. The zinc contained in them helps the body to heal, as does the vitamin E. Just like beans, they contain choline.
These types of vegetables – such as broccoli and cauliflower – contain both carotenoids and folate. Carotenoids help to lower the levels of homocysteine in the brain. This amino acid impairs cognitive function, so lowering levels helps keep you mentally sharp.
Other Helpful Vegetables
Other vegetables that have been found to help prevent dementia include various types of squash, asparagus, carrots, tomatoes, and beets. It is believed these vegetables help because of their higher levels of folate and vitamin A. These nutrients help work together to improve cognition, so you can lead a more productive life, even if you are already fighting dementia.
Olive OilBy replacing the vegetable oil, canola oil, or other oils that you use when cooking or making dressings with olive oil, you can create a much healthier diet for both body and brain. Recent studies have shown that a diet rich in olive oil can reduce toxic proteins in the brain and maintain the strength of connectivity between neurons. The monounsaturated fats olive oil contains help reduce cholesterol, which can help improve brain health, as well as keep the body healthy. The vitamin E and antioxidants in olive oil help the brain function better as well.
Brain plaque, which can build up over time and slow down cognitive function, can be removed by eating certain foods and spices. They include sage, cumin, cinnamon, and turmeric. Curcumin, for example, the active compound in turmeric, helps reduce inflammation that leads to damage in specific areas of the brain.
Eat Real Food
A simple way to remember this list is to think, "Eat real food" when considering what to eat. For most grocery stores, staying in the outer aisles generally yields the best results (depending on the design, naturally). This is where you'll find the fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats necessary for a dementia-reducing diet. The exceptions are spices and healthy oils, which are typically found in an inner aisle.
By choosing the right foods and maintaining a proper diet, you can help reduce the risk of developing dementia. Paired with steady daily activity, you can manage your weight more effectively, lower blood pressure, and prevent diabetes h eart disease.
A healthy diet that incorporates these foods regularly will reduce your risk of developing dementia or help slow its progression if symptoms are already present.
For further information on diet and wellness for seniors, download our "Live Strong and Eat Well" presentation:
Senior Center Live Strong and Eat Well at Home Q and A 9.29.2017 (255 KB) | 29-Sep-2017
The author is Gary Simmons, Senior Content Manger for A Hand to Hold, an in-home care provider for Atlanta and its surrounding areas.
Editing and additional research by Kyle Murray, Content Manager of Aware Senior Care.