Dementia diagnoses impact millions of families in the U.S. each year. It changes people, relationships, lifestyle, and family dynamics, and there is still no cure. In addition to work on treatments, there is research on the link between diet and dementia, and early signs indicate some correlation. The research is ongoing, and the findings are not definitive, but there are some things families can do to help reduce the risk of dementia in their loved ones.
One of the best things families can do to reduce the risk of dementia is to encourage healthy eating habits. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been linked with a lower risk of dementia, while a diet high in processed foods has been linked with an increased risk. At Buckner Retirement Services, we provide the highest quality care to all seniors, including those with dementia. If your loved one has received a dementia diagnosis, call us today at 855.931.5688 to learn more about the care we can provide.
The Link Between Diet and Dementia
We have known for decades that a poor diet can increase the risk of health issues. However, research is making it more evident that a poor diet can negatively impact the mind and even lead to a higher risk of developing dementia.
One area that researchers mainly focus on regarding dementia and diet is the impact of processed foods. There have been studies in animals on the impact that a diet high in refined carbohydrates has on the development of dementia. In addition, in France, observational studies tracked seniors who regularly eat processed foods. In both studies, there was at least some indication that the regular consumption of processed foods resulted in a higher likelihood of developing dementia.
Heavy alcohol consumption has strong correlations with the development of dementia. However, the jury is still out on how moderate consumption impacts the mind. Some studies have even shown that moderate drinkers are at a lower risk of developing dementia than those who do not drink at all.
Inflammation has long been associated with memory decline and continues to attract significant interest from researchers. While there are a variety of anti-inflammatory medications, a better option is often to control inflammation through diet. Foods that are known to cause inflammation include:
- Saturated fat
- Fatty acids
- Refined carbohydrates
- Trans fats
Many of these ingredients are present in processed foods, which is one of the reasons it is recommended that seniors cut back on highly processed meals.
Dementia, Diet, and Exercise
Research studying the link between diet and dementia has shown that a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet can improve cognitive function. This has led to a modified diet regimen called the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay). This diet focuses primarily on vegetables, nuts, berries, whole grains, and seafood.
Vegetables are a central component of the MIND diet, as they seem to have the most significant benefit in slowing cognitive decline and even improving memory. Green leafy vegetables are highly recommended daily. Green leafy vegetables include:
- Collard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Beet greens
Most specialists recommend several servings of green leafy vegetables daily to obtain the most benefit.
Supplements such as omega-3 have been studied in looking at the link between dementia and diet. While research showed some benefits, there was no significant improvement in cognitive decline for seniors who regularly took supplements. Researchers and doctors still recommend a healthy diet and exercise, which seems more effective.
Exercise has also shown some positive impact when it comes to dementia diagnoses. This is a result of the brain stimulation that occurs during exercise. Most seniors should get at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily.
Staying Well at Buckner Retirement Services
At Buckner Retirement Services, we understand the importance of cognitive wellness. For all of our residents, but particularly our at-risk residents, dementia diet and exercise can be incorporated into daily life to help slow the progression of cognitive decline. We encourage our residents to eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and socialize with others to keep their minds sharp. We also offer a variety of brain-stimulating activities, like trivia nights, arts and crafts, and more. For more information on how we can help you or your loved one, contact us at 855.931.5688 to learn more about dementia care and services at Buckner Retirement Services.