There is no definitive treatment for Alzheimer’s disease at the moment that will prevent it or cure it; therefore, a different approach has been undertaken to try to alleviate the symptoms of this agonizing disorder. Large-scale studies continue to reveal that populations who eat a healthy diet tend to have much lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease compared to populations who consume unhealthy diets. For example, observations reveal that people living around the Mediterranean region tend to live longer and disease-free compared to Americans. At first, it was believed that these differences in quality of life were simply due to the environment. However, in-depth studies revealed that it was the type of diet that was most likely responsible for the health benefits. What is the best diet for Alzheimer’s? Is it the Mediterranean diet for Alzheimer’s? Or a combination of both the DASH and Mediterranean diets. We will explore the answer to these questions below.
Today, we have adopted the Mediterranean diet to improve longevity and quality of life. At the same time, another very similar diet developed by U.S. doctors is the DASH diet. This diet is primarily designed to help prevent increases in blood pressure. What is most important about both these diets, however, is that they may also prevent or delay the progression of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Over the past few years, several studies have shown that practicing either of these two diets can not only lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but also individuals who have Alzheimer’s may have a very slow progression of the symptoms.
What Exactly is the DASH Diet?
One of the few medical diets that can help lower blood pressure is the DASH diet. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. This diet is not a one-shot deal but a lifelong approach to eating healthy. The diet was developed to help lower blood pressure. It does this by encouraging people to lower the intake of sodium, and eat certain nutrients (e.g., calcium, magnesium, and potassium) to lower blood pressure.
When you start on the DASH diet, you may notice a drop in your blood pressure by a few points in a matter of weeks. If you continue with the diet, your blood pressure may even drop more, which can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.
The DASH diet has many benefits besides lowering blood pressure. There is some evidence that it may prevent certain cancers, decrease the risk of stroke, dementia, and heart disease, and possibly also prevent Type 2 diabetes. Unlike many other diets, the DASH diet is not actually a weight loss diet, but by eating healthy and exercising, one can also lose weight.
The DASH diet consists of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, combined with fish, poultry, assorted nuts, and a moderate amount of whole grains. Unlike a traditional diet, which can provide 3,500 mg of sodium a day, the DASH diet recommends anywhere from 1,500-2,300 mg of sodium per day.
Sweets are not banished from the diet, but you need to limit the intake. Select sweets that are fat-free, like sorbets, hard candy, or jellybeans. Once in a while, you can even have a regular or diet cola. Since excess alcohol can increase blood pressure, the DASH diet recommends no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. The DASH diet does not address caffeine, but since this beverage can increase blood pressure, the intake of coffee should be limited as well.
Ways to cut salt with the DASH diet include not adding salt to your fries/rice and using sodium-free spices. One should always read labels and look for sodium-free products.
What’s the best diet for Alzheimer’s? The DASH diet does take some time to get used to, so start slowly with your dietary changes. Since whole grains and fiber can cause excess gas and belching, start slowly with these foods. Try to add some type of physical activity to help you further lower your blood pressure.
The Mediterranean Diet for Alzheimer’s Disease
Over the years, there has been great interest in ways to delay or prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Besides the use of drugs, some researchers feel that perhaps a change in diet may help prevent the decline in cognitive impairment that occurs in older age. It is widely believed that a healthy diet may help prevent the development of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
Current estimates indicate that about 10% to 15% of individuals with MCI convert to AD each year.
What about the Mediterranean diet for Alzheimer’s? One of the diets thought to have some benefit in delaying mild cognitive impairment is the Mediterranean diet. Previous clinical research revealed that conformity to a Mediterranean diet was linked to a reduced risk for AD, but its effect on developing MCI was unknown. However, more recent studies indicate that those who adhere to the Mediterranean diet (e.g., a high intake of fish, fruit, vegetables, legumes, cereals, and unsaturated fats; a low intake of dairy products and meat; and a moderate intake of alcohol/wine) have slowed the development of mild cognitive impairment and also prevented cognitive decline in healthy people.
How the Mediterranean diet lowers the risk of cognitive impairment is not fully understood, but there is strong evidence relating the Mediterranean diet to a lower risk for vascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol, hypertension, and heart disease.
In addition, there is good evidence that shows strong adherence to a Mediterranean diet can also improve carbohydrate breakdown and profoundly decrease plasma glucose levels, serum insulin levels, and insulin resistance, which may partly explain its beneficial effects on lowering the incidence of MCI.
Alternatively, the protective effect of the Mediterranean diet on MCI may be mediated by some antioxidant effect or may be related to one particular food component in the diet.
These are preliminary data and the findings have not been replicated in a randomized controlled trial. In any case, however, it is a generally accepted fact that eating a good healthy diet consisting of vegetables, seafood, whole grains, fruits, and having a glass of wine now and then, is not only good for the brain, but for the entire body.
REDUCING YOUR RISK FOR ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
To reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, here is what you need to do:
- Consume at least 3 servings of whole grains daily
- Eat green leafy veggies 6 times a week
- Add fruits to your diet
- Reduce the intake of red meat
- Eat fish at least 2-4 times a week
- Consume low-fat dairy twice a week
- Include fiber in your diet (e.g., beans)
- Eat a variety of nuts regularly
- Limit the intake of fried and fast foods
- Use unsaturated oil for cooking (e.g., olive oil)
- Limit yourself to one glass of wine every day
- Stop smoking
- Become physically active
What is the best diet for Alzheimer’s? Today, healthcare workers recommend the Mediterranean diet for Alzheimer’s or the DASH diet to reduce the risk of dementia. In fact, it has also been recommended to utilize them both together. Remember, both the Mediterranean and DASH diets require a change in lifestyle with healthy eating. There is no one food that you can or cannot eat. Eat everything in moderation and maintain the variety. The Mediterranean and Dash diets prevent monotony and are nutritious. When you combine them with the health benefits, there is no other diet plan that comes close to reducing the risk of AD.
Cano Health is an invaluable resource for seniors who want to learn more about reducing their risks for some of the diseases that appear to onset with advanced age. They have structured numerous plans and programs around providing the best care for seniors. Their full-service healthcare facility provides services for seniors on both Medicare and Medicaid. Call them at 1.855.975.5119 today to learn more.