Many Cedar Rapids residents have similar questions about Alzheimer’s disease as others across the country, including how people get it, if it can be avoided, and what kind of palliative care is available for those who already have Alzheimer’s.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care doesn’t have exact answers for the first two questions but we can at least offer all sorts of information about current research into this debilitating form of dementia.
We can also provide a variety of resources for those in Eastern Iowa about different care options, including home health care services and hospice services for patients or for families who are planning ahead for the future as the mental and physical health of a loved one continues to decline.
Alzheimer’s disease is one of those conditions that currently are irreversible; although there are regular advances in different treatments that may hope can slow the advance of some of its symptoms.
Ongoing research into dementia has been looking at possible cures, as well as possible reasons why the mental decline may start in the first place. Some studies are looking at possible environmental factors or genetics, while others look at other possible risk factors.
One theory that continues to be researched is the role that processed food can have. A variety of studies have shown that additives and chemicals in processed food may contribute to poor health and contribute to conditions in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s disease.
The list of processed food is long especially since most are staples of the American diet, including:
“White foods,” such as products with refined flours like pasta, flour, bread, refined sugars plus white rice.
Food that includes diacetyl, a chemical often found in microwave popcorn, beer or margarine, cold cuts, some cheeses or various seasoned meats.
Many of these foods include artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or stabilizers. Some are considered complex carbohydrates nutritionally, which run the risk of building up toxins and inflammations in the body. Others are high in natural and artificial sugars, which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels
The role of blood sugar also seems to be a not-yet-understood factor in Alzheimer’s disease. In some cases, people with Alzheimer’s symptoms have reduced levels of glucose in the brain, which effectively can weaken and starve the brain’s cells, causing permanent damage.
The buildup of plaque in brain cells makes it difficult for sugar and other nutrients to reach them, further damaging the brain.
Adding to this high-risk factor from poor food choices is that some people with diets high in processed food may also make other poor lifestyle choices, such as little exercise, which potentially can further cause mental or health declines.
Need for healthy foods
While researchers continue looking at the potential impact that poor nutrition and poor lifestyle can potentially have as a possible risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, other scientists are looking at the opposite: the value of eating better and exercising regularly as a way to reduce one’s risk.
Non-processed, whole or healthy food can contribute positively to one’s health. Research announced in 2017 at the Alzheimer Association’s International Conference indicated that cognitive impairment can drop by as much as 35 percent if someone follows at a heart-healthy diet, especially the Mediterranean diet or something called the “MIND Diet,” short for “Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.”
This particular diet includes up to 10 brain-healthy food groups to have more of, plus five food groups to avoid. One study of those showed that cognitive behavior was close to what it typically was for someone seven years younger.
A University of California San Francisco study of 6,000 subjects which reached similar conclusions: a diet of heart-healthy food, including a variety of greens, could also significantly reduce the onset of dementia.
The National Institute on Aging recommends fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products as part of a regular diet, although some of these might still include some sugars; just not as high of levels as refined flour products.
Even people who haven’t had many of these items earlier in their life might enjoy incorporating them into their diet and experimenting with what tastes and textures they like more than others.
Home health options
Cedar Rapids area residents receiving home health care or hospice care also can incorporate some of these dietary adjustments or encouragement.
For instance, the staff at Above and Beyond Home Health Care can provide expertise on foods that should be avoided plus foods that should be increased.
The Homemaker services include non-medical tasks like meal preparation, local errands and light housekeeping.
A home health/hospice aide can assist caregivers in different therapeutic methods that can benefit the patient, everything from help with personal care tasks like shaving, brushing or skin and nail care. They can also help with meal preparation and feeding.
For more information about health care and dietary options visit Above and Beyond Home Health Care.