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Women make up two thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's
In honor of Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month we’re looking for ways we can incorporate more brain-boosting foods into our diets. After all, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The disease currently affects 5.7 million Americans and kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, according to the American Alzheimer’s Association.
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And unfortunately this number is only growing. The American Alzheimer’s Association predicts this number will rise to 14 million by 2050. But—for women, especially—there are ways to incorporate the right kinds of foods and potentially lower the risk.
This is important, as women make up nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease. Research has predicted Alzheimer’s is especially prevalent in women because it is related to menopause, when the hormone, estrogen, drops drastically.
Some research has suggested women can lower their risk by incorporating foods that mimic estrogen, which may help ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Foods like soy, legumes, flaxseed, sesame seeds, apricots, oats, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli may have that ability, Today reports.
It is better to consume these as whole foods, not in processed snacks like a protein bar. And you should always discuss any diet changes with your doctor: Consuming foods that mimic estrogen may have negative effects on some forms of breast cancer.
The American Alzheimer’s Association suggests additional research is needed on preventing Alzheimer’s, but a number of studies have led scientists to believe regular physical activity and a healthy diet can also improve brain health, and possibly ward off the disease. Studies have shown diets focused on heart health, like the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet, have shown to be beneficial to the brain.
The DASH diet incorporates high amounts of vegetables, fruit, fat-free or low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetables oil. The diet limits sodium, sweets, sugary beverages, and red meats.
Similarly, the Mediterranean diet limits red meats and encourages consuming whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, shellfish, nuts, olive oil, and healthy fats.
Studies have found a combination of these diets, called the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) can lower risk for Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent when followed strictly, and by 35 percent even when followed moderately, according to Today.
This diet focuses on increasing consumption of berries, nuts, green leafy vegetables, beans, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and moderate consumption of wine and poultry. The diet suggests limiting intake of red meat, sugar, high fat dairy, and fried foods. We recommend starting out with these Greek-inspired dishes or this Mediterranean diet meal plan.
Positive Steps to Prevent Alzheimer’s: Exercise, Eat Right, Socialize, and Keep Learning
Scientists believe that for 99 percent of all people, Alzheimer’s risk is related to a complex interplay of genetics, lifestyle, and environment.
While it’s impossible to change the genes you inherit, you can adopt healthy habits and take other steps to protect your brain.
Alzheimer’s researchers are actively investigating modifiable risk factors in clinical trials and observational studies, with the goal of identifying the most effective ways to prevent or slow damage to the brain.
Fight Weight Gain, Alzheimer’s, and Diabetes With Chromium
As we get older, it becomes increasingly important for us to make sure that we’re getting enough vitamins and minerals through our diets to keep ourselves in good health. While problems like blood sugar issues, cognitive decline, and excess weight tend to arise, eating right can help stave them off and keep us feeling our best. Chromium is a nutrient that benefits you in these ways and more.
Chromium is a mineral that the body needs in small amounts to perform a number of its functions. Most notably, chromium helps with blood sugar control, weight management, and even cognitive functioning.
Chromium is used in the pathways that signal insulin in our bodies, so it helps control the amount of sugar that is absorbed into our bloodstream and cells. In doing so, it helps to regulate blood sugar levels and give us stable energy throughout the day.
Several studies suggest that chromium may help regulate blood sugar. In one study, subjects who took a 200 milligram chromium supplement saw significant reductions in blood sugar levels. In addition, subjects also had an improved response to insulin after taking the chromium. In a larger study including over 62,000 people, researchers found that those who took supplements containing chromium were 27 percent less likely to have diabetes.
Some research suggests that chromium may have benefits for those trying to manage their weight because it helps control hunger. One eight-week study found that overweight women who took chromium had reduced food intake and reported reduced hunger and cravings. Another smaller study found that subjects taking chromium not only experienced less binge-eating episodes, but also had less symptoms of depression.
Chromium may also help in the prevention of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s dementia. Other research suggests that the mineral may improve cognitive functioning. Results from a 2007 study showed that older adult subjects experiencing early memory decline had improved cognitive functioning after taking chromium supplements.
Glucose is one of the main sources of fuel for our brains. The study authors say these results show that since chromium improves glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, it can improve nutrient absorption and blood flow to the brain, helping us avoid or slow down cognitive decline.
Adding more of this healing mineral to your diet is easy. Good sources of chromium include broccoli, whole grains, garlic, grape juice, orange juice, green beans, red wine, and turkey, so go ahead and pile them on your plate.
You can also get chromium with a supplement, but as always, get your doctors OK beforehand. Be sure to look for chromium picolinate, the safest and most easily absorbed form of the mineral (it’s also the form used in each of the mentioned studies). For one we love, try this product from Solgar ($10.11, Amazon).
Chromium should be taken with caution. Dosages between 1200 and 1400 mcg per day have been associated with kidney problems in women, so again, start small with doses and consult with your healthcare provider beforehand.
Alzheimer’s Diet Plan: Foods to Eat and Avoid
Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.
Alzheimer’s disease currently affects around five million people within the U.S. over the age of 65—thankfully, the ultimate Alzheimer’s diet plan includes a helpful list of foods to eat and foods to avoid. An Alzheimer’s diet plan is particularly important since Alzheimer’s is an unpleasant form of dementia that strips away memory, identity, and ability to function during the most vulnerable years of late life.
Until a cure is devised, preventing Alzheimer’s emergence and slowing its advance remains the only option. Fortunately, there is no shortage of studies, surveys, and analysis describing what you can eat and drink to improve your chances of escaping Alzheimer’s.
Your diet is believed to affect Alzheimer’s and it all boils down to nutrition. Alzheimer’s is currently suspected of being caused by a buildup of damaging plaques in the brain and oxidative stresses. This means that nutrients with antioxidant properties, or those capable of protecting neural tissue, are the best bet for minimizing the risk of Alzheimer’s dementia:
- Vitamin A and beta-carotene: This is a pair of antioxidant nutrients that are known to be reduced in Alzheimer patients. Additionally, laboratory tests have found that the combination can keep amyloid plaques from forming—one of the suspected causes of the dementia. Lastly, beta-carotene is associated with improved memory and mental tasks and exercises are also a means of helping stave off Alzheimer’s.
- Vitamin C: Another antioxidant with the ability to keep plaques from forming. Unlike vitamins A and beta carotene, this result has been seen both in vitro (petri dish) and in vivo (in the body).
- Zinc: Zinc is known to reduce the presence of plaque signs in the hippocampus section of the brain and in mice it’s been found to reduce memory decline. Additionally, cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients has an association with zinc deficiencies, though it is unclear whether this is correlation or causation.
Other nutrients, such as the B vitamins or iron are also reported to have antioxidant or other protective effects in the brain. However, the body of research on them is much less conclusive than the three listed above.
Foods to Eat If You Have Alzheimer’s
With the above in mind, consider adding or increasing the following foods in your diet so that you can be sure to get the proper amounts of vitamins A and C, zinc, and beta-carotene:
- Sweet potatoes
- Dark, leafy greens
- Grass-fed beef
Foods to Avoid If You Have Alzheimer’s
Fats and alcohol are the main things you should avoid when trying to minimize your Alzheimer’s risk however, this isn’t quite cut-and-dry. With fats, the current research suggests that relative levels of different types of fat—rather than actual intake amounts— that determine your risk. Keeping your mono or unsaturated fat intake higher than saturated has been shown to improve cognitive function, while the reverse results in worse function. With this in mind, try to limit or eliminate the following in your diet:
- Butter or margarine
- Red meat (no more than four servings per week)
- Fried/fast food
- Alcohol (see below)
With alcohol, two or fewer glasses per day seem to have a protective effect, but more raises your risk instead. It is advisable then that you either keep your drinking to a minimum, or abstain entirely.
A Word about Supplements
Vitamin supplements may be useful alongside dietary changes, but only in certain circumstances as advised by your doctor. Supplements are highly beneficial as a way to correct any nutritional deficiencies you may have, but if you are eating a proper and balanced diet they will have minimal, if any, effect.
Should You Follow the MIND Diet?
Even if you don’t have a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or other risk factors, you may still want to try this eating plan. It focuses on nutritious whole foods, so “it’s not just good for your brain. It’s good your heart and overall health, too,” says Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD. He is the chairman and CEO of the Memosyn Neurology Institute.
One of the best things about the plan is that you don’t have to stick to it perfectly to see benefits, Rokusek says. “That makes it more likely you’ll follow it for a long time,” she says. And the longer people eat the MIND way, the lower their risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease, Morris says.
If you do decide to make your diet more MIND-like, Rokusek recommends you take a few extra steps. “Keep your portions in check, and be careful about how food is prepared. Sauces, breading, and oils can add extra calories and hidden ingredients like sugar,” she says. “Make a point to drink several glasses of water a day, too.”
Last, understand that even though diet plays a big role, “it’s only one aspect of Alzheimer’s disease,” Fotuhi says. So get regular exercise and manage your stress to lower your risk even more, he says.
Study: Vitamin D-Rich Diet Helps Stave Off Dementia
Can we eat our way to better brain health? A new study suggests that steering toward a vitamin D-rich diet may be a wise move to help ward off memory-robbing dementia.
Published in the journal Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the research tracked more than 1,700 people for nearly 6 years. It found that those consuming the highest amounts of vitamin D were 28% less likely to develop dementia than those consuming the lowest amounts.
The link between vitamin D intake and dementia risk had been established in earlier research. But the new study stands out by confirming it in a large group of people of various races and ethnic backgrounds, experts said.
“There has been some evidence suggesting protection from vitamin D for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but in the past those studies were more in non-Hispanic or white populations,” said study author Yian Gu, MD, PhD. She’s an assistant professor of neurological sciences at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.
“Our study population is multi-ethnic because we need to know whether this relationship with dementia is the same in different populations,” Dr. Gu told Medical Daily. “We know dementia has no [effective] pharmaceutical treatments right now, so it’s important for us to find preventive measures to delay the onset or prevent the disease.”
Food choices tracked
Marked by the deterioration of memory, thinking skills and the ability to do everyday activities, dementia affects about 50 million people worldwide, with about 10 million new cases each year, according to the World Health Organization.
Risks increase with age, with the number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease – the most common cause of dementia – doubling every five years after 65, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Gu and her team analyzed 1,759 people who were aged 65 or older when the study began. Hailing from diverse New York neighborhoods, participants filled out questionnaires detailing their food choices over an average follow-up period of 5.8 years.
Over the study period, 329 participants developed dementia. Researchers adjusted the results for other factors that could also influence dementia risk, such as age, gender, education and smoking, but still found a strong link between higher vitamin D intake and lower rates of dementia.
Dementia is far from the only condition linked to vitamin D. In COVID-19, low blood levels of vitamin D were found to be independent risk factors for ICU admission and death, according to new research. Meanwhile, a variety of chronic conditions such as heart disease, autoimmune disorders and diabetes have all been associated in recent years with vitamin D deficiency.
“A low level of vitamin D is linked with many negative outcomes,” said Miroslaw “Mack” Mackiewicz, PhD. He is a program director in the Neurobiology of Aging and Neurodegeneration Branch at the U.S. National Institute on Aging, which helped fund the new dementia/vitamin D study.
Talk to your doctor
The research does not prove that eating a vitamin D-rich diet prevents dementia, only that it’s linked to lower risk, Dr. Mackiewicz told Medical Daily. “It’s incredibly difficult to design a study that would establish a causal link, but it should be part of our future research,” he said.
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, people aged 14 to 70 should consume 600 IUs (international units) of vitamin D daily, increasing this to 800 IUs after 70. Vitamin D-rich foods include salmon, tuna, milk, yogurt and eggs.
“The takeaway message would be that keeping a healthy level of vitamin D is important,” Dr. Mackiewicz said. “When you talk to your health professional and you’re concerned about dementia, talking about vitamin D storage should be part of that conversation.”
Maureen Salamon writes about health and medicine for websites, magazines and hospitals such as Medscape, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Weill Cornell Medicine and others.
How Do Brain Diets Work?
Research suggests foods in these diets can reduce things linked to Alzheimer’s like inflammation and plaque buildup in the brain. No one knows for sure whether certain foods or nutrients are key to the benefits or whether a mix of many nutrients is what helps.
“Various nutrients most likely block different pathways to Alzheimer’s,” Lombardo says.
Inflammation is one pathway to Alzheimer’s. Too much inflammation -- a response from your body’s immune system -- is linked to chronic diseases. In a study that followed more than 1,200 adults over age 65, those who stuck most closely to the Mediterranean diet had the lowest levels of a protein in their blood linked to inflammation. Their risk of getting Alzheimer’s during the 4-year period was 34% lower than their peers who didn’t follow the diet.
“Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet -- from the fish, seeds, nuts, and olive oil -- are anti-inflammatory,” Lombardo says.
The Mediterranean diet and others like it push anti-inflammatory foods and cut out inflammatory ones. The typical Western diet’s lack of variety and high levels of sugar, salt, fat, and processing increase inflammation.
Oxidative stress is also a likely player in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It happens when the body is unable to stop the damaging effects of toxins. Brain-healthy diets are high in antioxidant-rich foods, such as blueberries and spinach, that can counter oxidative stress. These foods may prevent the buildup of plaque that collects in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. In lab tests on mice or cells, substances in olive oil, berries, plums, grapes, walnuts, and apricots have helped prevent this plaque buildup.
Herbs and spices may also lower inflammation and oxidative stress. DASH is high in herbs and spices, so you won’t miss the salt. Turmeric could help prevent Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and stroke due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, research suggests. Cinnamon has reduced brain plaque found in Alzheimer’s disease and helped reverse mental decline in animal studies of the disease. In one study, 30 mg of saffron per day was as effective as donepezil, a prescription drug that helps against the symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
These benefits may come together to prevent the brain from shrinking as we age. In a recent study, older adults who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had a higher brain volume than their peers.
Exercising is good for the entire body, including the brain. Encourage your loved one to exercise to lower her LDL cholesterol levels, which can reduce plaque in the brain that causes Alzheimer’s disease. Dancing seems to be an especially helpful way to get moving. A 2017 study done by researchers at the University of Illinois found senior women who learned how to dance were able to slow the degeneration of the white matter in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Check with the local senior center or nearby dance studios for dates and times of upcoming dance classes for seniors.
Though heavy drinking has been linked to dementia, having one glass of red wine every day has been linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease in women. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that moderate drinking can boost cognitive health. Researchers believe resveratrol, which is found in red wine, has benefits for the brain.
Family caregivers often become overwhelmed when caring for a loved one who is at risk of Alzheimer’s disease. If you are the primary family caregiver for an elderly loved one and need additional assistance providing high-quality senior care, Centennial Home Care Assistance can help. We are a leading home care agency committed to changing the way seniors age.
Doing This Healthy Habit Every Day Can Help Reduce Alzheimer's-Related Toxins
This habit can boost your health in many ways—and it's totally free.
You may think of Alzheimer&aposs disease as something that impacts only your friend&aposs grandpa, but we&aposre learning that cognitive decline is actually shockingly common. In fact, Alzheimer&aposs Association experts estimate that 12 to 18 percent of Americans 60 and older experience some form of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which often progresses to officially diagnosable forms of dementia, including Alzheimer&aposs disease.
This week, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) fast-tracked aducanamab, the first drug that might potentially slow the progression of early-diagnosed Alzheimer&aposs. But there&aposs still no cure for any form of dementia, so our best bet is to do everything possible to prevent it in the first place. We&aposve recently learned that walking three times per week, playing music and eating a Mediterranean-style diet can help keep your brain healthy as you age.
New research published June 1 in PLOS Biology adds another brain-benefiting tip to our Alzheimer&aposs prevention arsenal: deep sleep.
Pennsylvania State University scientists discovered that sleep-dependent brain activity-the kind that occurs during deep, restful non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep-can help the body excrete toxic proteins related to Alzheimer&aposs disease. (ICYMI, we just learned that a healthy gut can help you score more high-quality, deep sleep so be sure to load your diet with these probiotic, prebiotic and fermented foods!)
Extensive research suggests that one way Alzheimer&aposs disease develops is when levels of the proteins amyloid-β (Aβ) and tau build up in the brain. This often occurs over the course of 10 to 20 years prior to an official diagnosis. By the way, this is not the first research that hints to this brain protein burden and sleep link: In 2018, scientists found that a single night of sleep deprivation increases the Aβ load within the brain.
The cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can usher these waste products out of the body through the glymphatic system, which is part of the central nervous system. Glial cells in the brain team up with blood vessels to help protect neurons from physical and chemical damage. If the glymphatic system can&apost drain this "brain waste" effectively, the extracellular accumulation of these proteins could progress to Alzheimer&aposs disease.
But deep sleep might help the brain wash away these Alzheimer&aposs-related toxins. During NREM sleep, which is the kind that occurs when it&aposs *really* tough to wake up because you&aposre so fully "off," the brain creates slow, steady electrical waves that act as an internal cleaning mechanism.
"The study linked the coupling between the resting-state global brain activity and [CSF] flow to Alzheimer&aposs disease pathology. The finding highlights the potential role of low frequency (less than 0.1 [hertz]) resting-state neural and physiological dynamics in the neurodegenerative diseases, presumably due to their sleep-dependent driving of [CSF] flow to wash out brain toxins," Xiao Liu, Ph.D., an assistant professor of biomedical engineering at the Pennsylvania State University, tells Medical News Today.
The study authors caution that this is not a proven cause-and-effect scenario (yet), but recommend that sleep analysis be added to Alzheimer&aposs disease detection protocol.
Regardless, carving out time for enough (AKA seven to nine hours) of restful sleep certainly doesn&apost sound like a bad prescription! In case you could use a little R&R rehab, we spoke to a sleep expert to round up four ways to get a better night of sleep.
6 MIND Diet Recipes to Give Your Brain a Boost
You already know that what we eat can help build strong bones and muscles. But it turns out that our diet can also have a positive effect on our brains, enhancing memory and mental clarity, and even helping stave off dementia and Alzheimer&rsquos disease. Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, author of the cookbook Meals That Heal, explains: &ldquoThe brain runs 24/7, requiring a constant supply of energy and nutrients. If it doesn&rsquot have the optimal fuel it needs, this affects its functioning and can also slowly change its structure.&rdquo
According to Williams, food can improve brain health in two major ways. First, antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods can help fight the free-radical damage and low-grade inflammation that lead to declining brain health. Second, foods that are nutrient-dense with protein, B vitamins, choline, vitamin C, iron, and zinc may support neurotransmitters, which carry messages between brain cells directing essential functions like sleep, mood, concentration, breathing, heart rate, and hunger.
So what&rsquos the best overall eating pattern to reap these benefits? Science is pointing to the MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay)&mdashit&rsquos a combination of the classic Mediterranean diet and the hypertension-focused DASH diet. &ldquoResearch suggests even moderate adherence to the MIND diet slows brain decline and reduces the risk of Alzheimer&rsquos,&rdquo Williams says.
Cornerstone foods of the MIND diet include leafy greens, berries, nuts, olive oil, beans, whole grains, poultry, and fatty fish (and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids). The recipes featured here follow the MIND diet guidelines. What&rsquos more, they are easy to prep and big on flavor.