If a loved one is suffering bouts of dementia or a more progressed form of memory loss and confusion, you may be looking for the proper memory care facility.
It can be a difficult transition and hard to adapt for both you and your loved one. Depending on the stage of dementia, we’re going to go over a quick overview of what it is, what causes it, and possible factors that could help the condition.
In other words: while there is no cure for dementia, can it be prevented?
Many studies have shown that diet, exercise, and stimulating activities can help our brains with memory and cognitive function and prevent overall decline. But when it comes to diet and dementia, can what we eat really prevent it down the road? Let’s find out.
What Is Dementia? What Causes It?
Dementia is not a specific disease but rather a broad term used to describe symptoms of decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Some of those symptoms include:
- Memory loss (most common)
- Losing the ability to complete familiar tasks like handling money, getting dressed, remembering to shower or brush teeth
- Difficulty concentrating and paying attention
- Trouble finding the correct names or words
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Mood swings and personality changes
- Having trouble understanding speech
While dementia generally affects older adults— over 90% of all dementia cases occur in people 65 and older— it’s important to note that it’s not a normal part of aging. It is caused by damage or changes in the brain and can happen to anyone at any age.
There are many different causes of dementia, but the most common include the following:
This is the most common form of dementia, accounting for 60 to 80 percent of all cases. It typically affects people over the age of 65 and gets worse over time.
This form of dementia is caused by damage to the brain’s blood vessels, leading to memory, thinking, and judgment problems.
Lewy Body Dementia
This form of dementia is characterized by a build-up of protein deposits in the brain, which can lead to hallucinations, delusions, and problems with movement.
This form of dementia is caused by damage to the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which can lead to changes in personality and behavior.
This is a combination of two or more different types of dementia.
As you can see, it’s not as black and white as many people may seem. Dementia is just an overarching term that is often misused or wrongfully applied to similar diseases or when someone has minor trouble with memory.
How Is Dementia Treated?
Dementia treatments are mainly just treating the symptoms and the things that come with it. Many people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease may suffer from cognitive decline, anxiety, depression, paranoia, sleeplessness, and more. So managing those symptoms is vital to ensuring their comfort and potentially slowing the progression.
People with dementia might utilize a senior living center that specializes in memory care, and they can get amenities and care that include:
- Healthy meals and exercise
- Daily social activities
- One-on-one therapy (physical and mental)
- Individual nurse care
- On-site amenities like medical staff, barbers, entertainment, etc.
The goal for most people with dementia is to make their day-to-day lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible. There is no real cure for any form of dementia, so slowing the progression and providing a good quality of life is the best we can hope for.
Diet and Dementia: Is There a Link?
Now that we know a bit more about dementia, can dietary patterns keep someone from developing dementia? Well, sort of.
Evidence suggests a healthy, balanced diet can help with overall brain health and memory function, which can, in turn, help prevent dementia symptoms. Additionally, some diets have been specifically linked to decreased rates of dementia, like the Mediterranean-DASH diet. This diet is high in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, and seafood— all of which have been linked to better brain and heart health.
The Benefits of the Mediterranean “MIND” Diet
While the Mediterranean diet was developed and discovered to be fantastic for heart health, the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) is a variation of it that is specifically geared toward brain health. The MIND diet is a scientifically-backed way of eating that was developed by nutritional epidemiologist Martha Clare Morris and her colleagues at Rush University in Illinois.
The MIND diet combines two very popular health diets, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), and the Mediterranean, to help reduce the risk of dementia and the frequent decline in brain and memory health that older people may experience with age.
10 Foods to Eat on the MIND Diet 🫐🥬🍗🍷
- Beans and lentils
- Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries all have the most antioxidants
- Fish: Choose fatty fish with lots of omega-3 vitamins, like salmon, trout, and tuna
- Leafy greens
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Olive oil
- Whole grains
- Wine (red is best, but white can also be beneficial)
5 Foods to Avoid on the MIND Diet 🚫
While this diet isn’t super strict, there are some things that you shouldn’t eat or at least avoid while trying to stick to the MIND diet.
- Butter or margarine: A good substitute is olive oil.
- Cheese: Limit to 0-1 serving per week.
- Fried food: This is probably the biggest one to avoid, but if you happen to eat some, limit it to less than once per week.
- Pastries and sweets: Limit to 4 or fewer times per week.
- Red meat: Limit to 3 or fewer servings per week.
Other Benefits to This Diet
Aside from promoting brain health, the MIND diet has also been linked to several other benefits, including:
- Lowering your risk of heart disease
- Reducing inflammation throughout the body
- Improving blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity
- Helping with weight loss or maintenance
So, if you’re looking for a way to improve overall health, this is a great option.
Foods That Increase Dementia Risk
Of course, not all foods are good for brain health. In fact, some have been linked to an increased risk of dementia. These include:
Sugary drinks: Soda, energy drinks, and even fruit juices can cause inflammation and damage the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain responsible for memory.
Junk food: Processed foods high in unhealthy fats, salt, and sugar can damage the brain and lead to dementia.
Trans fats: These are found in processed foods like cookies, crackers, and margarine. They can increase inflammation and contribute to heart disease, a risk factor for dementia.
Alcohol: Drinking too much alcohol can damage the brain and lead to dementia.
While you don’t need to completely avoid these foods, limiting them as much as possible is essential to keep your brain healthy.
The Future of Dementia Prevention
As dementia research continues, we are learning more and more about how to prevent it. While there is no sure way to prevent dementia, the best thing you can do is live a healthy lifestyle and eat a healthy diet. Diets like the MIND diet are a great way to promote brain health and reduce your risk of dementia. Some other extraordinary research is on the horizon.
With the help of leading researchers, the Alzheimer’s Association seeks to discover any significant effects of better food choices and developing dementia. They’re looking to find which foods are proven vital to brain health, which groups of people most likely benefit from dietary intervention, and if dietary intervention post-diagnosis shows any improvement.
Currently, some more diet studies seek individuals to test their theories on dietary Intervention as it correlates with dementia prevention.
- Enhanced Mediterranean Diet for Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention
- Mediterranean Diet, Weight Loss, and Cognition in Obese Older Adults
- Multicultural Healthy Diet to Reduce Cognitive Decline
- Brain Energy for Amyloid Transformation in Alzheimer’s Disease
Getting the Appropriate Memory Care
While diet, exercise, and cognitive therapy are vital throughout one’s life, after dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it’s also essential to get the memory care and therapy needed to navigate and treat dementia symptoms. A senior community like Sunflower Communities can do that.
Our dedicated memory care program allows individuals with dementia to thrive in an environment catered just for them. Along with a personalized care plan, our staff provides around-the-clock assistance and specializes in caring for individuals with dementia.
We understand how vital socialization is to memory care patients. That’s why we provide many opportunities for residents to interact with others through group activities, events, and outings. We also have a secure outdoor courtyard and walking paths where residents can safely explore and enjoy the fresh air.
If you’re looking for a memory care community for yourself or a loved one, we invite you to contact us to learn more about our program and schedule a tour.