As a person starts to get up in years, the development of health issues becomes more dominant in one’s thinking. Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and Alzheimer’s Disease. The best time to get the information is when a person is younger and can put themselves on a healthy track.
But even if you are older, don’t sweat it. There are still things you can do to prevent or slow down the progression of illness.
Today, I’d like to write about dementia. Dementia has other names, including organic brain disease, old timer’s disease (I don’t even think that is politically correct, let alone nice.), and the word that gets mentioned a lot, Alzheimer’s Disease. Not all people diagnosed with dementia have Alzheimer’s. No matter what the name, watching a loved one lose brain function is heartbreaking. And it can drag on for years.
My paternal grandmother was a dynamo. She did everything and was always on the move. Nobody could cook or bake like her. She was happily married, active in her church, and had a beautiful soprano voice. We’d see them at least weekly for Sunday dinner.
After we moved to California, we visited a lot less frequently. My grandmother’s mental abilities began to wane. She would bake food and put it in dressers or under the beds. Sometimes she would forget to turn the burners off. She’d forget to eat. For her safety, and those who lived in the senior apartment building, she was moved to a nursing home. Over time she wasted away from not wanting to eat, she didn’t sing anymore, and she didn’t recognize family members anymore. Her well coiffed hair and neat dressing style were gone. My father took a trip out to visit her as the Alzheimer’s was progressing. He called us crying because she didn’t even remember her “Juny.” (My father was a Jr., and my grandma nicknamed him “Juny.”) The woman in the photographs was not my grandma. It was very sad, and my heart goes out to everyone who has a loved one that mentally deteriorates.
New information is always coming out as well. We’ve been told not to cook food in cast iron pans. There goes my tortilla pan. (Darn! It makes the greatest quesadillas. Actually, that hasn’t been proven.) Exercise the brain with crossword puzzles or memory games. This does help. Try this supplement or that one. With all this info, we need to sift through it and find what is scientifically sound.
There is data that shows there is a link between diet and dementia, both in positive and negative ways. One study showed that there is an increase in the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) when Vitamin D was deficient. In one study published in 2014 in the journal Neurology 1600 elderly women were followed over a 5 year period. Those who were severely low in Vitamin D had a much higher incidence of developing dementia and AD.
Before you start taking mega-doses of Vitamin D, see you doctor and ask him to draw Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is now known to be a hormone and it is fat soluble. Too much can be stored in the liver causing toxicity which can produce some unwanted effects. Women are prone to decreased bone minerality and fractures. Adding calcium is not always the answer. My doctor did a few Vitamin D tests and placed me on 5 grams of Vitamin D per day. Another person’s dose could be different.
The Mediterranean Diet which consists of fruits and veggies, nuts, legumes, fish and unsaturated fats and low portions of meats can reduce the risk of AD. This type of diet is also low in added sugars and processed foods.
There are other factors involved, such as blood glucose (or more commonly, blood sugar) levels. Controlling the blood sugar is important. You eat a doughnut and a rush of sugar dumps into your system. More complex carbohydrates are better at keeping the glucose levels balanced.
In a patient with AD, glucose control and metabolism are impaired. This appears to be related to the loss of brain function. The DASH Diet which was developed to control high blood pressure has been linked to slower brain decline in adults.
Being overweight or obese increases high blood pressure which in turn increases risks of dementia.
What can be done? Well, heredity cannot be changed. And not all AD is because of genetic issues. 1) Pay attention to modifiable risk factors, like your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. 2) See a doctor regularly. Try some of the3 foods listed below that can affect your brain.
Eat fruit and veggies that are colorful. Use whole or unprocessed foods. Omega-3 fatty acids (sardines, walnuts, flax seeds, salmon) Lean proteins like lentils, legumes, beans, seafood, and skinless poultry. Low fat dairy is good, too.
Watch out for these unhealthy choices: Highly processed foods; simple sugars or food with a lot of fructose, soft drinks, candy, desserts. White rice. Foods make with refined flour (like bread, pasta, cookies, crackers, bagels).
Whole food doesn’t have to mean dry and disgusting.
Take care of yourself. You deserve it. Enjoy your health!