It’s important to understand the link between dementia and nutrition.
We are what we eat, as the saying goes, and that’s shown to be the case with certain types of foods and an increased risk for dementia – and with others that may actually improve cognitive functioning. While many of us are resolving to live a healthier lifestyle in 2021, we can also help the seniors in our care maximize wellness by understanding the link between dementia and nutrition, and adjusting dietary habits accordingly.
Why It Matters
A diet high in processed foods, carbs, and sugar produces toxins in our bodies that cause inflammation and plaque buildup in the brain. A senior who consumes too many of these types of foods while limiting fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins may be experiencing impaired cognitive functioning as a result, as the brain isn’t receiving the right type of fuel it needs.
Foods to Avoid
Many popular go-to food choices, unfortunately, are on the list of those linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, including:
White sugar, rice, bread, cakes, and pasta, which increase insulin levels and send toxins to the brain
Processed meats and cheeses: bacon, smoked meats, mozzarella sticks, American cheese, etc. which build up the proteins linked to Alzheimer’s
Beer, which contains the nitrites that are also linked to Alzheimer’s
Microwavable popcorn, which contains a chemical, diacetyl, that is linked to an increased level of amyloid plaques in the brain
Foods to Enjoy
It’s not easy to create and stick to new dietary habits, but replacing the foods above with the recommendations below will lead to better health outcomes for the seniors you love – and for yourself. All of the following are linked to improved memory and overall cognitive functioning:
Cold-water fish, such as salmon
Green, leafy vegetables
Dark-skinned fruits and berries
Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
If the thought of overhauling a senior loved one’s diet is overwhelming, let us help! As one of the top-rated caregiver agencies in Phoenix, AZ and the surrounding areas, the aging care experts at Nightingale Homecare are trained, experienced, and skilled in planning and preparing meals that are both nutritious and delicious, in accordance with any dietary restrictions or recommendations.
Not only that, but our caregivers are adept in creative Alzheimer’s care techniques, understanding and effectively managing some of the more challenging aspects of the disease, while helping seniors engage in meaningful, enjoyable pastimes and activities to make each day the very best it can be.
Contact us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more about our customized home care services for seniors, and to request a free in-home consultation to let us get to know you and the challenges you’re facing. We’ll be happy to create an ideal solution for your particular circumstances – from just a little support for a few hours each week, up through and including full-time, live-in care.
A diet that includes superfoods provides health and nutritional benefits for seniors.
Thanksgiving dinner is typically full of rich, high-fat foods that can be unhealthy if eaten frequently in large quantities. So, while it’s okay to eat traditional Thanksgiving foods such as mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and pumpkin pie in moderation, it’s also a great time to try incorporating some “superfoods” into your holiday dinner, and throughout the rest of the year.
Superfoods are foods that are primarily plant-based, but also include some fish and dairy. Because they are nutritionally dense, with high levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and healthy fats, they have been shown to be beneficial for one’s health, helping fuel the body so that it can fight against chronic diseases and other nutrient deficiencies.
Recent long-term research studies have shown that there are several nutrients that should be regularly included in the diet of older adults who are at risk for heart disease, stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease. These superfoods for seniors are nutritional powerhouses that provide a variety of long-term benefits, and include:
Salmon and other fatty fish. Cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel, are high in protein and low in saturated fat and calories. With high levels of omega-3 essential fatty acid (DHA), which optimizes triglyceride levels that carry fat in a person’s blood stream, salmon (and other fatty fish) helps to reduce the low density LDL (bad) cholesterol, while improving the high HDL (good) cholesterol that fights deposits in the arteries. An additional benefit: there is strong evidence linking DHA to helping prevent memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.
Walnuts, almonds and other nuts. Research has shown that eating one ounce daily of nuts like walnuts, almonds, pecans, pistachios, peanuts, or hazelnuts may reduce the risk of heart disease. Just one handful of almonds each day provides the recommended dose of omega-3 fatty acids and 35% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin E. A study featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shown that vitamin E may help protect people from Alzheimer’s disease. The only downside to nuts is that they are high in calories and oftentimes, salt. To help ensure a proper proportion, purchase nuts in their shells, as cracking open the nuts takes time, and slows down the eating process.
Carrots. According to researchers, people who have diets rich in vitamin A and other anti-oxidants over several years have reduced incidents of Alzheimer’s disease. Another study links diets rich in vitamins C and E, beta-carotene and zinc to a reduction of diminished eyesight in older adults. The human body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, making carrots a healthy choice that provides many benefits. In fact, just one 7.5-inch carrot provides 230% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A. To make carrots softer and easier to chew without losing valuable nutrients, try microwaving or lightly steaming them.
This Thanksgiving, why not try a new recipe such as this salmon and carrot dinner that uses superfoods as the primary ingredients. Or, try searching online for recipes that incorporate other superfoods for seniors such as: dark leafy greens, berries, green tea, legumes, olive oil and a variety of others. Including these as part of a senior’s diet can provide long-term health benefits, especially when combined with a regular program of physician-approved exercise.
September is National Yoga Awareness Month, and the benefits of yoga, regardless of a person’s age, are phenomenal. Yoga for elderly adults, when combined with other healthy lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise, has been shown to minimize hypertension, strengthen bones, and help with weight loss. It may even reverse heart disease, according to one study.
Yoga for elderly adults can be extremely beneficial.
At Nightingale Homecare, providers of the highest quality senior care Phoenix, AZ and the surrounding area have to offer, we love helping the older adults in our care engage in ability-appropriate yoga. In addition to enhanced physical health, yoga for elderly adults can also improve memory, boost the senior’s mood and outlook, and reduce anxiety.
Half Chair at the Wall: Stand about 12” from a wall, with the back touching the wall. Lift the arms forward and up over the head, facing the palms toward each other, and then slowly bend the knees and squat towards the floor, until a seated position is achieved about halfway to the floor. Hold while taking five breaths, and then stand and repeat.
Warrior: Stand and place feet hip-width apart, while the right foot is held still, bend the right knee to a right angle, and shift the left foot back about 3 feet, pointing the left toes out to the side. Raise the arms straight up near the ears and look up. Hold for three breaths, return to standing straight on both legs, and repeat.
Cobbler’s Pose: From a seated position with legs spread out and the spine straight, bend the knees and bring the feet up toward the pelvis area, with soles touching. Press the elbows against the thighs, coaxing them closer to the floor (without causing any discomfort or pain).
Alternate-Nostril Breathing: Place the tips of the right index and middle fingers between the eyebrows, and then place the thumb on the right nostril and the ring and pinky fingers on the left nostril. While pressing the thumb against the right nostril, breathe in through the left nostril. Alternate for the next breath, and repeat for five minutes.
Let Nightingale Homecare help the seniors in your life maximize health and quality of life! Our care team is always available to provide the encouragement and motivation for older adults to engage in yoga and other exercise programs, along with a wide range of personalized medical and non-medical in-home care services. To learn more about our services in senior care in Phoenix, AZ and the surrounding areas, call us at (602) 504-1555 at any time!
Learn more about the importance of hydration for seniors.
The importance of hydration for seniors cannot be overstressed. In an older loved one, dehydration can occur rapidly and be life-threatening. Many older people often are not as quick to feel thirst as younger people are, so they may not be drinking enough ﬂuids to begin with. This, combined with health concerns that might cause your loved one to reduce her ﬂuid intake, puts the older person at high risk for dehydration.
When you are caring for an elder loved one, offer a drink of water every time you interact with him or her, and make sure she always has fresh water within reach. However, be aware that even when offered water, many older people will say, “I’m not thirsty” or, “I’ve already had too much to drink today.” You may need to be persistent in encouraging your loved one to regularly drink water.
Fluid balance occurs when the amount of ﬂuids a person takes in equals the amount of ﬂuids the person loses. Each day, we lose ﬂuid in the form of urine, sweat, bowel movements and breath vapor. To maintain a state of ﬂuid balance, we must take in enough ﬂuid each day to equal, or balance, these losses. When ﬂuid balance is not maintained, your loved one may develop either dehydration (too little ﬂuid in the body) or edema (too muc h ﬂuid in the body).
Dehydration can result from conditions such as vomiting, diarrhea, fever or severe blood loss. A very common cause of dehydration, however, is simply not drinking enough ﬂuids. Many elderly people have conditions that put them at risk for becoming dehydrated. For example, a person who has problems with mobility or other disabilities may have a difﬁcult time getting up to get a drink. Your loved one may also cut back on ﬂuids because she is trying to reduce the number of times she needs to get up and go to the bathroom, or she is afraid that she will not be able to make it to the bathroom in time. Some seniors who are incontinent may also reduce their ﬂuid intake because they think this will lower their risk for having an episode of incontinence. However, it is important to know that decreasing ﬂuid intake does not decrease incontinence, nor does it decrease trips to the bathroom. In fact, the opposite may be true. As the urine becomes more concentrated, it irritates the bladder and may increase the urge to urinate, resulting in the need to urinate more frequently.
As your loved one’s caregiver, you will play an important role in helping to ensure that she takes in enough ﬂuids. Here are some tips to encourage fluids:
Frequently offer ﬂuids that your loved one likes at the temperature she prefers.
Encourage her to drink plenty of ﬂuids with each meal.
Frequently provide your loved one with a pitcher of clean, fresh water. Encourage her to drink each time you enter the room.
Be sure she has a clean drinking glass or cup within easy reach. Reﬁll the glass if she cannot do it. A drinking straw or a plastic water bottle with a screw-on lid and a straw may make it easier for some people to drink independently.
If she frequently refuses beverages, offer ﬂuid-rich foods instead, such as ice cream, popsicles, gelatin or fruit.
If your loved one becomes dehydrated, her physician may give an order to “encourage ﬂuids” or “push ﬂuids.” This means that she should be urged to drink as much ﬂuid as possible. Encourage her to drink each time you enter the room and again on your way out. Keep a record of the amount of ﬂuid your loved one drinks and record the total for the day on the flow sheet for her physician and for your reference.
Be on the Lookout!
Dehydration is a serious condition. If you suspect that your loved one is dehydrated, contact her physician immediately. Signs and symptoms of dehydration include the following:
Poor skin turgor (the skin does not return to its normal shape when gently squeezed or pinched)
Passing of small amounts of dark-colored urine
Very dry skin or chapped lips
Edema, or the state of retaining too much water, can result from medical conditions (such as chronic heart failure or kidney disease) that make it hard for the body to rid itself of excess water. Your loved one’s physician may place restrictions on the amount of ﬂuid she is allowed to have each day.
When you are caring for a loved one and ﬂuid restrictions are in place, the physician will tell you how much ﬂuid she is allowed to have over the course of the day. Offer small amounts of ﬂuid at regular intervals. This will help to prevent your loved one from becoming too thirsty.
Measuring and Recording Fluid Intake
When orders to encourage or restrict ﬂuids are in place, you will need to measure and record your loved one’s ﬂuid intake. A person’s ﬂuid intake includes all of the liquids she drinks, as well as foods that are primarily liquid (such as soups) or that are liquid at body temperature (such as ice cream or popsicles).
Although in everyday life ﬂuids are usually measured in ounces (oz), in health care, ﬂuids are measured and recorded in milliliters (ml) or cubic centimeters (cc). A milliliter (ml) is equal to a cubic centimeter (cc). One ounce equals 30 milliliters or 30 cubic centimeters.
With prepackaged items, printed information on the container indicates how much it holds. For example, a small prepackaged milk container contains 8 ounces, or 240 ml (remember, there are 30 ml in an ounce). In other cases, you will need to determine how much ﬂuid the container holds. When you are caring for your loved one and need to measure ﬂuid intake, you can determine the amount of ﬂuid your cups, glasses and bowls hold by ﬁlling them with water and then pouring the water into a measuring cup.
To measure and record ﬂuid intake, observe how much ﬂuid your loved one consumes at each meal and in between meals. For example, if she had 8 oz (240 ml) of milk, 4 oz (120 ml) of coffee and 12 oz (360 ml) of soup with lunch, you would record her ﬂuid intake at lunch time as 720 ml. Then, if she had another 8 oz (240 ml) of tea in between lunch and dinner, you would record her ﬂuid intake as 240 ml.
Sometimes your loved one may not consume all of the ﬂuid in the container. In this case, estimate how much of the total was consumed. For example, if she only drank about half of her coffee at lunch, you would estimate the amount to be 2 oz (60 ml) instead of the full 4 oz (120 ml).
Remember the Importance of Hydration for Seniors – Nightingale Homecare Can Help!
If your doctor has warned you that your cholesterol is creeping upward, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help improve it before trying cholesterol-lowering medication. And if you already take medication, the tips below can actually improve the cholesterol-lowering qualities of your medication.
It’s helpful to understand what cholesterol is, and how it can affect your health. Cholesterol is manufactured in your liver and has several important functions. It helps to keep the walls of your cells flexible and is necessary in the production of several hormones. But, like anything else…too much of it can create problems.
Cholesterol is transported in the body by molecules called “lipoproteins” which carry cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins in the blood. Lipoproteins levels in the blood are used to determine cholesterol levels. You may have heard that low-density lipoproteins (LDL) are bad. This type of lipoprotein carries cholesterol to deposit it on blood vessel walls, leading to clogged arteries, hypertension, stroke, kidney failure and heart attack. So, it is important to lower this level. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) are the good lipoproteins, helping to carry cholesterol away from vessel walls and preventing artery-clogging disease. So, it is important to raise this level.
Your hereditary influence is something you won’t be able to change, but how you manage other high-risk influences can make a difference. Listed below are lifestyle changes that can help lower cholesterol while improving health and quality of life, courtesy of the Phoenix senior care experts at Nightingale Homecare:
WATCH YOUR FATS
Focus on Monounsaturated Fats
Your doctor may recommend a low-fat diet for weight loss, but often a diet low in fats can reduce not only your harmful LDLs, but may also reduce the beneficial HDLs. In contrast, a diet high in monounsaturated fats will reduce harmful LDLs but also protect higher levels of healthy HDLs. A few good sources of monounsaturated fats:
Olive oil and olives
Nuts: almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews
Use Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fats
Studies show that polyunsaturated fats reduce LDL cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Some good sources are:
Fish oil supplements
Seafood with high fatty content: salmon, mackerel, herring, bluefin and albacore tuna
Seeds and tree nuts (not peanuts)
Eliminate Trans Fats
Trans fats are handled differently by the body than other fats. They can increase total cholesterol and LDLs, and also decrease the beneficial HDLs. Use of trans fats leads to heart attack and stroke. In the US, food companies are required to list trans fats on nutrition labels. However, they are allowed to round down when the amount of trans fat per serving is less than 0.5 grams. This means some foods contain trans fats even though their label says “0 grams.” Read further on the nutrition label. If a product contains “partially hydrogenated” oil, avoid it, as it contains trans fat! Foods that contain trans fat include:
Store-bought cookies and crackers
Fried fast food
INCREASE SOLUABLE FIBER
Soluble fiber actually reduces the absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream by increasing probiotics or “good bacteria” in your intestine. These bacteria will reduce harmful lipoproteins and LDLs. The best sources for soluble fiber include:
Peas and lentils
Fruit: apples and pears
Oats and whole grains: not the quick-cooking oats, which have the fiber processed out
Fiber supplements like psyllium
ADD WHEY PROTEIN
Whey protein found in dairy products can help lower both LDL and total cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure. Foods containing whey protein include:
Whey protein powder
If you see sugar, corn syrup or any word containing “ose” at the top of the ingredient list, avoid it.
Moderate exercise every day can not only combat obesity, it can also help raise good cholesterol levels. Be sure and check with your doctor before you start any exercise program. Try to work up to at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least 5 times a week. Some exercises to consider:
Riding a bike
An exercise class
Playing a favorite sport
Smoking increases the risk of heart disease by changing the way cholesterol is handled in the body and results in the faster development of clogged arteries. Quitting smoking helps improve your HDL cholesterol levels. This will lower your blood pressure, improve your liver function, and reduce your risk of heart and lung disease.
Carrying a few extra pounds contributes to high blood cholesterol. Weight loss will reduce your total cholesterol by decreasing the creation of new cholesterol in the liver.
As mentioned, sometimes healthy lifestyle changes aren’t enough to lower cholesterol to optimal levels. If your doctor orders medication to help lower your cholesterol, take it as prescribed along with continuing your lifestyle changes.