Eating Habits You Must Follow If Alzheimer's Runs In Your Family
If you have a family member with Alzheimer's disease, you already know how devastating this diagnosis can be. Classified as the most common type of dementia, this disease can affect various cognitive factors, including controlling thought, memory, and language.
Unfortunately, if you have an immediate family history of this disease, you are at an increased risk of developing it as well. While developing this diagnosis is not guaranteed, experts share that people who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer's are more likely to develop the disease than those who do not have a first-degree relative with this disease.
The good news is there are some simple things you can do that may support your brain health, possibly helping reduce your personal risk of experiencing this condition.
Some lifestyle changes people can make include:
- Maintain healthy blood pressure
- Participate in regular physical activity
- Maintain social connection
- Include intellectual activity in your day, like doing a crossword puzzle
- Protect yourself from experiencing head trauma by wearing a seatbelt when in a car and wearing a helmet when participating in sports
When it comes to diet, unfortunately, no one magic food will prevent the development of Alzheimer's Disease. But certain foods that, when included in an overall healthy diet, may support brain health, memory function, and other symptoms that people with this disease tend to develop.
If you have a family history of Alzheimer's Disease, here are the eating habits you should follow to help keep your brain health in check. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss The #1 Best Juice to Drink Every Day, Says Science.
Adopt the MIND diet.
There are many diets that help people lose weight, lower their blood pressure, and support their body build muscles. But when it comes to brain health, the MIND diet is the star of the show.
As the name implies, the MIND diet supports the health of the mind! A hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension diet (DASH diet), this diet is linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease dementia development in older adults.
Following the MIND diet means including the following foods in specific quantities:
- Green, leafy vegetables: 6+ servings a week
- All other vegetables: at least once a day
- Berries: 2+ servings a week
- Nuts: 5+ servings a week
- Olive oil: Use olive oil as your primary cooking oil.
- Whole grains: 3+ servings daily
- Fish: at least once a week
- Beans: 4+ servings a week
- Poultry: 2+ servings a week (unfried)
- Wine: Aim for no more than one glass daily.
- In addition to eating the approved foods, certain foods like butter, margarine, cheese, red meat, fried food, and sweets are either limited or avoided.
Data shows that, among almost 1,000 people, the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer's by as much as 53 percent when the diet was strictly followed. Those who followed the MIND diet moderately well experienced around a 35% risk reduction.
Include eggs in your diet—especially with the yolk.
Eggs are an all-around nutrient powerhouse, a complete protein with essential vitamins and minerals for healthy living. They are one of the few foods rich in choline, a nutrient that helps support lifelong brain health at every age and stage, including memory, thinking, and mood. And while both the egg white and egg yolks contain important nutrients, the yolks are where this important nutrient is housed.
A recent study supported by the American Egg Board found that consuming even limited amounts of eggs (about 1 egg per week) was linked to slower memory decline later in life compared to consuming no eggs. According to this study, those who ate the least amount of eggs (fewer than about half an egg per week) had the largest rate of memory decline over time. Those who ate an "intermediate" amount of eggs (about half to 1 1/2 eggs per week) had a significantly lower rate of decline in memory performance compared to the low egg intake group. In other words, even a very small amount of egg included in the diet (as little as ½ to 1 egg per week) was associated with a beneficial impact on memory.
There is growing interest in the possible role of healthy eating to protect against later cognitive impairment, and new data continue to support eggs as an important food to help support healthy aging.
Eat an apple a day.
Apples naturally contain flavonoids that support brain health. And when it comes to Alzheimer's disease risk reduction, including apples and other flavonoid-rich foods may offer unique benefits and may truly keep the doctor away (as the saying goes).
According to data published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that, among almost 3,000 people who were 50 years old or older, those who eat higher amounts of flavonoid-rich foods such as apples were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
It appears that high concentrations of flavonoids found in apples stimulate the creation of new neurons, potentially keeping Alzheimer's disease development at bay. One such flavonoid found in the apple skin, quercetin, offers unique neuroprotective benefits.
Eat low mercury fish two times a week.
Our brain depends on certain nutrients to keep it healthy and functioning. DHA (short for Docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid predominantly found in marine sources like fish, is one such nutrient that plays a key role in brain health, and may even help reduce Alzheimer's Disease development risk.
According to the results of a systematic review that analyzed approximately 27,000 people, regular consumption of fish was associated with a 20% reduced risk for developing Alzheimer's type dementia. Specifically, researchers found that adding a 3.5 ounce serving of fish to a diet every week was associated with an additional 12% reduction in risk for Alzheimer's type dementia.
Many varieties of fish also contain selenium and choline, two key nutrients that play a role in Alzheimer's Disease pathology.
Sticking to lower mercury varieties of fish is recommended, as too much exposure to this metal may negatively contribute to cognitive concerns. Salmon, skipjack tuna, and Alaskan pollock are all lower mercury fish choices that contain DHA omegas.
Try purple potatoes.
There are over 200 varieties of potatoes sold in the U.S., and each type can give our dishes a boost of healthy carbs, fiber, and micronutrients. But if you opt for a potato that has purple flesh, you are getting a boost of a specific flavonoid called anthocyanin along with your starchy veggie.
Anthocyanins are what give purple potatoes and other purple/blue foods (like blueberries and purple cabbage) their gorgeous and vibrant hue. And including these colorful sources of this flavonoid in your diet may contribute to defense against Alzheimer's Disease.
Anthocyanins have a unique ability to reduce oxidative stress, suppress inflammation, and inhibit the sudden death of nerve cells—all factors that can impact cognitive health.
Limit fried foods.
Who doesn't love that satisfying crunch when you bite into a piece of fried chicken or that enjoyable flavor when you indulge in a deep-fried Oreo at the local fairground?
Understandably, eating fried food is something that many of us crave. But overdoing it on fried foods may contribute to Alzheimer's Disease risk, thanks to the advanced glycation end products (AGEs) produced as a byproduct.
According to a study published in PNAS, people with higher blood levels of AGEs had more cognitive functioning challenges vs. those who had lower levels. And when evaluating mice, those who ate more fried foods had more buildup of beta-amyloid protein plaques in their brain, which can play a role in Alzheimer's Disease development. Of course, more studies conducted on humans are needed.
If you drink alcohol, stick to one glass of wine per day.
From beer to tequila to the trendy new spiked seltzers, alcohol choices are not hard to come by. But, if you are already an alcohol drinker, opting for either red or white wine will be your best bet when trying to reduce your Alzheimer's Disease risk—and stick to one glass a day max.
Wine is a part of the MIND diet, a diet that, when followed, may help reduce Alzheimer's Disease risk. And while the jury is still out on whether people should make a point to include wine in their brain health-supporting diet, opting for wine instead of other alcoholic drinks appears to be the best choice.