Showing posts with label Alzheimers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alzheimers. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Brain Food vs. “Stupid Food”

In our article on Brain Foods, you learned about foods that can positively affect your brain and nervous system, benefiting mood, memory, alertness, and neuromuscular response time.  But did you know that you could be quashing your best efforts to be smart by eating dumb?  Brain Awareness Week may be over, but National Nutrition Month is going strong. So now is the time to make a few key dietary adjustments to what you do or don’t ingest – it’s not too late to get smart about brain food vs. "stupid food" habits.  To avoid browbeating your brain with what you consume, make sure you avoid the following nine damaging dietary practices.

1.  Don't eat an imbalanced diet

According to Dr. Vincent Fortanasce, author of the book The Anti-Alzheimer's Prescription: The Science-Proven Plan to Start at Any Age, how you eat is as important as what you eat – getting your diet out of balance can increase your chances of Alzheimer's disease.  If your goal is to push any Alzheimer’s risk to the most distant future, Fortanasce recommends getting the right balance of foods in your diet: specifically one-third carbohydrates, one-third protein, and one-third fat.  As well, his research indicates that the order in which you eat them matters. 

2.  Say phooey to tofu

Tofu in a bowlTofu is often considered a healthy food.  In moderate quantities, maybe so.  But research from Loughborough and Oxford Universities shows potential tofu risks – that excess tofu eating can increase your risk of memory loss in old age.  The 700-participant study (ages 52-98) revealed that those who ate tofu daily were at an increased risk for developing dementia or memory loss.  The risk increased more for those over 65.  The researchers suspect the phytoestrogens found in soy for this increased risk.

3.  Don't fry that fish

Research published in the science journal Neurology supports the many studies showing that eating fish can prevent stroke and memory loss, but this new study found that there was no benefit for those who ate fried fish.  Broiled or baked tuna consumed at least three times weekly indeed showed almost a 26 percent lower risk of brain lesions that could lead to dementia and stroke – but not from fried fish.

4.  Go easy on the sugar, sweetie

Incredibly, the average American chows down on roughly 47 pounds of cane sugar and 35 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year, according to the USDA.  And yes, that's bad. Here's why: as this recent study reports, fructose can negatively affect both your memory and learning ability. 

In the study, researchers spent five days training rats to complete a maze, and then gave half of them a water-fructose solution along with their regular diet. After retesting the rats six weeks later, the sugared-up group of rats had elevated levels of triglycerides, insulin, and glucose – and, no surprise: performed poorly in the maze compared to the other group of rats. The researchers concluded that eating too much fructose appears to interfere with insulin’s ability to regulate how cells use and store sugar for energy – necessary for processing thoughts and emotions. 

5.  Skip the white bread

Go easy on the white bread. Turns out that it's bad for the brain. White bread spikes insulin levels, which Dr. Fortanasce states, causes insulin-degrading brain enzymes to become overtaxed from the work of removing insulin.  The problem – the sudden overload of carbohydrates distracts the enzymes from doing their other job: eliminating the toxic beta-amyloid proteins that engender Alzheimer's disease. 

Sliced white bread

The trick is to keep your overall glycemic index level good and low. So if you really want that white bread or muffin, don’t eat it by itself but rather with a protein source, which can keep your glucose level from spiking.  To help you plan out meals without spiking sugar levels, follow the The Franklin Institute’s chart on the glucose levels in many common foods.

7.  Low carb, maybe, but don’t do a no-carb diet

Some who go on a low-carb diet go overboard (whole hog, if you will), cutting carbohydrates completely from their diet.  Bad idea.  A new Tufts University study published in the February 2009 issue of the journal Appetite supports already known facts, that carbs are an important fuel for the brain.  When you eat carbohydrates, the body turns it into glucose, and glucose then fuels brain activity.  The study shows that a no-carb diet makes you mentally confused and forgetful.  Study participants developed slow reaction times and poorer scores on visual-spatial memories compared to the control group.

The good news is that the condition is reversible;  after a few weeks back on carbohydrates, study participants’ memory-test performance improved.

8.  Saturated fats with sugar can double your trouble

Not only do we know that sugar is bad for the brain, but according to this recent study, a diet that is high in both fat and sugar appears to cause damage to the hypothalamus – the area of the brain that regulates both energy and appetite. The damage to the hypothalamus from too much fat and sugar can make it harder to lose weight, according to the scientists. 

9. Avoid dehydration

You may not consider water a food item, but we must also include water in things you can ingest for improved thinking.  And, by the same token, not hydrating sufficiently can malnourish your brain.  When you become dehydrated, your brain tissue literally shrinks and, apparently, so does your cognition.  Many studies indicate that dehydration reduces cognitive function, impairing your short-term memory, your ability to focus, and your ability to make decisions.

So drink up (nonalcoholic) and eat smart and you will literally be smarter.

Woman drinking water

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Alzeheimer's It's More Than a Memory

Don't Face Alzheimer's Alone

The video to the right is not just an ad - it is the reality of about 5.4 million people, not to mention the over 15 million unpaid caregivers responsible for caring for those suffering with Alzheimer's.

(Video from - a free information source about Alzheimers)

When I noticed behavior changes in my mom, I feared she might have Alzheimer's. My grandmother developed Alzheimer's in her seventies. I knew that heredity played a part in Alzheimer's risk. But I didn't know many facts about dementia or Alzheimer's.  Dementia describes a range of symptoms that affect a person's memory and thinking abilities. Alzheimer's disease is one type of dementia and accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in eight Americans 65 and over are suffering from Alzheimer's. More than half are women. Every 68 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer's. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the US and out of the top ten leading causes, it is the only one that cannot be prevented or cured. About 800,000 people with Alzheimer's live alone, increasing their risk of falls/broken bones, infections, malnutrition and dehydration.

alzheimer's caregiver
Mom, third from the left, staying active with family.
My mom was working part time when she showed symptoms of dementia.  She was having problems with her boss and co-workers, making a lot of mistakes and had job duties taken away. That wasn't like my mom. Before retiring, she managed an office for eighteen years. She helped a small business grow into a multimillion dollar company. She knew her stuff!

Barry Reisberg, M.D. identifies this as part of mild cognitive decline,  third of a seven tiered framework of Alzheimer's stages.  A progressive disease, Alzheimer's symptoms might not be immediately noticeable and people progress at different rates.

Everyone forgets things from time to time. Who hasn't forgotten their next word, or mixed up the names of their own children? But what should you do if you suspect your loved one might be dealing with dementia?

How Do I Know?

There are no screening tests that diagnose dementia. It is diagnosed by reviewing symptoms and ruling out other conditions such as depression, infection, diabetes, brain tumor, small strokes, even certain vitamin deficiencies. It is important to consult a skilled health care provider in order to diagnose dementia.

The Alzheimer's Association lists information for what to expect during an examination and a doctor's office checklist that will help you and your caregiver prepare for your appointment. There are identified risk factors:
  • Close blood relative has Alzheimer's
  • History of head trauma
  • High blood pressure for a long time
  • Being female
  • Being older
  • Have certain genes linked to Alzheimer's, such as APOE epsilon4 allele
Sadly, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. However, there are treatments available that can help slow down the progress of the disease.  Medications can also help manage symptoms and some of the behavior problems associated with dementia.

Many families struggle with the high cost of anti-dementia drugs. Insurance might cover only a portion of the cost. The free FamilyWize discount prescription card helps manage the costs associated with dementia treatment for the following popular anti-dementia medications:
  • Aricept and Aricept ODT
  • Donezepil
  • Exelon
  • Rivastigmine
  • Galantamine
  • Namenda
  • Razadyne and Razadyne ER 
Dementia caregivers should also be aware that these medications and substances can increase confusion.
  • Pain killers
  • Antihistamines
  • Sleeping pills
  • Alcohol
Over the counter and prescription medicines should be carefully monitored and used only with the advise of your doctor.

After my mother fell in our home, injuring her back, the ER doctor prescribed Darvocet for pain. It's a standard pain medication. She became unresponsive to me the next day. She was more confused than normal. We went back to the ER and found that she had a reaction to Darvocet and determined that pain medicines increase her confusion.

I learned quickly to keep print outs of my mom's medications and dosages, along with instructions for what she can/cannot take. I give this to the emergency response team if we call 911, the ER nurse and doctor.

As caregivers, we are our loved one's advocate. I've had to take my mom to the ER many times in the past two years. Sometimes we go to the ER, come home, and go right back because she has taken another fall. For people living with dementia this can be the norm. We are part of our loved one's medical team. It's not only the doctors and nurses who administer treatments. We are a vital part of the decision making and we are the main line of communication between the professionals and our loved one.

Tips for Caregivers
The Alzheimer's Association has many links for caregivers, even caregiver dementia training.
Our previous blog, Tips for Elder Care - The Sandwich Generation  also has many tips and links to help caregivers.

Life's Full of Surprises
Remember that you are not alone when dealing with Alzheimer's. Take time to enjoy the moments that you have. Some days mom doesn't know who I am. I'm the girl who lives here with her.  This can be a heart breaking moment in dealing with Alzheimer's. Don't let it get you down. After all, when we were teenagers and we used to try to act like we didn't know them when out in public! Paybacks are....kinda funny sometimes, actually. Mom and I try to laugh a lot.  We've learned to let go of a lot from the past, but I also have fun getting to know my new daredevil mama who bought herself a new red car earlier this year.
dementia treatment assisted living
It's not a little red corvette, but mom's dealing with dementia in style!

Caroline Carr
Full-time Caregiver and Contributing Writer