For Alzheimer's families like mine, World Alzheimer's Day on Sept. 21 is
a time to focus on prevention of this devastating illness. While it's
comforting to read about many new research studies, we've decided that
we can't afford to wait for a major discovery. Instead, we're making the
best possible food and lifestyle choices to help prevent the disease
from claiming another member.
My father-in-law died in a house fire because of an injury that
prevented him from escaping. Due to Alzheimer's, he had wandered,
fallen, and broken a hip.
For several years before I met my husband, he worked the night shift so
that he could take care of his dad during the day. My better half has
some memory loss due to another condition. However, he's aware of the
hereditary factors linked to Alzheimer's and fears it with every
forgotten fact or omission in his daily routine.
This fear has led us to a proactive stance regarding the two most
important changes we can make: diet and exercise.
Best Food Choices
A research team from Rush University Medical Center conducted a study of approximately 6,000 people on Chicago's South Side who were Alzheimer's-free at its inception. What they discovered made us rethink what we ate.
Foods loaded with it were linked to a lower risk of developing
Alzheimer's. Vitamin E is an antioxidant. Researchers believe that
oxidation of the brain over an extended period causes mental
deterioration and that vitamin E might fight that process. I make sure
we consume plenty of fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, salad
dressings with an oil base, cantaloupe, and nuts.
The study showed that the n-e polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish lower
the chances of developing this type of dementia, making it a goal to eat
it a minimum of once a week. Since I dislike most forms of seafood, I
often use freshwater fish. The "good" fatty acids in fish have chemical
properties much like the gray matter found in the brain.
The wrong kind is that found in high-fat meat, vegetable shortening,
crackers, cookies, and full-fat dairy products like milk and butter. We
use skim milk on cereal and in cooking and eat low-fat yogurt daily.
People who restrict them usually do so because of fat and/or salt
content. An occasional meal of macaroni and cheese from the box isn't a
disaster in terms of health. However, the reason I have halved the
amount of processed food I serve is that I don't have sufficient time to
dissect product labels.
Becoming more active to help prevent Alzheimer's disease doesn't have to
mean daily workouts. Experts recognize a relationship between brain
health and heart health, and the path to a healthy heart is physical
activity. According to the Alzheimer's Association, every heartbeat
pumps around 20 to 25 percent of the body's blood to the head. Brain cells utilize at least a fifth of the food and oxygen in your blood. We opt to walk half an hour, six days a week.
For my family, World Alzheimer's Day is an opportunity to focus on the
beneficial steps we've taken to prevent this disease. It's the perfect
time to renew our commitment to lessening the risk that my husband or
our children will become Alzheimer's casualties.