June is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

By Jennifer Carland, RD, CDN
Every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer ’s disease, which is a form of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Warning signs and symptoms include:
• Memory loss
• Challenges solving problems
• Difficulty completing familiar tasks
• Confusion with time and place
• Problems with words and speaking
• Misplacement of things
• Poor judgement
• Withdrawal from social activities
• Changes in mood and personality

Some factors that increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease are not controllable such as age and genetics, however, certain lifestyle choices may influence outcomes. Some research has shown evidence that not smoking; being physically active; eating a well-balanced, healthy diet; and exercising the brain may all positively affect our brain function.

Healthy Diet
While there is no specific diet proven to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease, one thing that is clear is that a poor diet can lead to chronic illnesses and compromise one’s cognitive function.

Foods to Enjoy to Protect the Brain
• Foods High in Vitamin E including nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, leafy greens, and whole grains
• Foods High in Vitamin B12 such as meat, eggs, cheese, fish
• Foods High in Vitamin B9 (Folate) like green leafy vegetables, grains, nuts, beans
• Omega 3 Fatty Acids found in fish and nut oils (try to incorporate at least twice a week)
• Blue/purple fruits and veggies containing anthocyanins including blueberries, eggplant, red cabbage, and cranberries

Foods to Limit or Avoid to Protect the Brain
• Red meat intake should be limited.
• Trans fats and saturated fats found in pastries, sweets, processed and fried foods
• Added sugars such as those in sugar-sweetened juices, candy and baked goods

Exercise can also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and it does not have to be strenuous. Walking and household chores are beneficial. In addition to physical activity, exercising the brain with stimulating activities such as games, reading and writing can further preserve memory in old age.

Help is Available
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association is the trusted resource for reliable information, education, referral and support to millions of people affected by the disease.

24/7 Helpline: 800.272.3900
Locate a chapter in your community
Use the AA’s Virtual Library
Go to Alzheimer’s Navigator to create customized action plans and connect with local support services