Haims: Diets can make a difference in warding off Alzheimer’s (column) | VailDaily.com

Haims: Diets can make a difference in warding off Alzheimer’s (column)

Judson Haims

Many of us living in the Colorado mountains understand the association between living a physically active lifestyle and eating a well-balanced diet. However, I don't believe we truly grasp the long-term benefits.

Although a poor diet and lack of physical activity may impact the way we look and feel both today and in the future, an unforeseen harm may lay in being robbed of our memories.

I have been assisting elders for a very long time. After years of clinical observations, following research and speaking with medical professionals, I frequently see a correlation between Alzheimer's disease/dementia and the level of one's physical activity and diet.

Can you recall all the times your parents told you that you need to eat your vegetables or that sugar is bad for you? They were on to something.

The frequency and amounts of red meat, dairy products, breakfast cereal, bread and soft drinks you consume will affect more than just your weight. Most likely, a lifestyle of eating such foods in greater amounts will affect your mind and may even contribute to the possibility of getting Alzheimer's.

Conversely, diets that promote a lifestyle of eating healthy foods may do more than keep your waistline in check; they may assist in curtailing the onset of cognitive dysfunction.

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Inflammatory Foods are bad

Last year, at the Alzheimer Association's International Conference, researchers presented a great amount of information about linking diet choices to Alzheimer's. The takeaway was clear — foods that trigger inflammation are bad.

When it comes to Alzheimer's disease and cognitive function, diet absolutely plays a role. Like any organ or muscle, the brain is affected by the foods we eat. Diets and lifestyles that promote higher quantities of leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, berries, and omega-3 fats are proving to matter in reducing inflammation which causes damage to blood vessels and tissue in the brain.

In general, inflammation is your body's first line of defense against infection and injury. It can be both a friend and foe. The goal of the body's acute inflammatory reaction is to bring white blood cells and plasma proteins to the site of infection and/or tissue damage. It is a local response to cellular injury that is marked by increased blood flow and capillary dilatation.

However, inflammation can turn on your body. When this happens, it is called chronic or systemic inflammation. This happens when inflammation starts to attack healthy cells, blood vessels, and tissues instead of protecting them.

Ingredients to Avoid

Some the foods that cause inflammation include:

• Saturated fats: red fatty meats, processed meats, full-fat dairy, palm oil.

• Trans fat: fried food, fast food, processed snack food and stick margarine.

• Sugar.

• Refined carbohydrates: white rice, white potatoes (instant mashed potatoes or french fries) and many cereals.

• Gluten and casein: dairy and wheat.

• Artificial sweeteners.

Some the foods that combat inflammation include:

• Fatty fish: salmon and tuna.

• Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower.

• Olive oil.

• Fruits: berries, cherries.

• Ginger, garlic and turmeric.

Worldwide, research shows that it may be possible to deter cognitive decline via a combination of healthy habits. While age and genetics may play a role in your risk factors, exercise, social engagement, mental stimulation, diet and even quality sleep are proving to help in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer's.

Diets such as plant-based diets, Mediterranean and the MIND diet are proving to have a positive correlation to cognitive health. A study published in The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association stated, "the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer's by as much as 53 percent in participants who adhered to the diet rigorously, and by about 35 percent in those who followed it moderately." These are pretty supportive and promising statistics.

While there currently is no cure for Alzheimer's and other dementia-related illnesses, certain diets are proving to aid in mitigating cognitive decline. Modifying your diet to include salads, vegetables, berries and nuts four to five times a week is proving to curtail the onset of this disease. If nothing else, then these modifications to your diet will add to your overall health and well-being.

As with any diet, consult with a doctor before starting any new diet plan.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.