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alzheimer's

LifeCare Dietitian

September 1, 2023

Alzheimer's Disease?

alzheimer's

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that impacts brain function, resulting in symptoms of dementia such as poor memory and difficulty learning new information. Over time, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may develop a buildup of plaques and tangles, along with neuronal damage in their brains, which can exacerbate their Alzheimer’s symptoms. It’s crucial to understand that Alzheimer’s disease typically advances slowly and is characterized by three general stages: early, middle, and late. The manifestation of symptoms can vary among individuals. Generally, most patients face difficulties in memory retention, encounter confusion and mood swings, and exhibit changes in personality and behavior. In severe cases, they may lose awareness of recent events and basic physical abilities like eating and walking. This renders independent living extremely challenging, necessitating round-the-clock assistance with daily personal care.

As we know that proper nutrition is important to keep the body strong and healthy. Do the changes that occur in people with Alzheimer’s disease make healthy eating more difficult?

alzheimer's disease

As we are aware, the normal aging process itself brings about changes in one’s eating patterns. These changes can manifest as alterations in the sense of taste and smell, which in turn impact daily food consumption and overall health. Additional factors, such as problems with dentures, shifts in vision, and reduced swallowing ability, can further diminish food and nutrient intake. This is partly because individuals may find it challenging to prepare and enjoy food as they once did.

For those living with Alzheimer’s disease, it is evident that they encounter even greater challenges on top of age-related changes. Maintaining a regular eating pattern and achieving optimal nutrient intake become increasingly difficult as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. If an individual with Alzheimer’s experiences a prolonged period of poor appetite and significant unintentional weight loss, it is advisable to seek consultation with a dietitian specializing in geriatrics. A thorough assessment will be conducted, and strategies to enhance their nutritional status will be discussed.

Alzheimer’s disease: What can caregivers do to improve and encourage better eating?

Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease may encounter distinct challenges when it comes to maintaining good nutrition, which can vary depending on the primary reason they struggle with this. For instance, difficulties in swallowing can result in choking and weight loss. Therefore, when you are preparing meals for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, consider altering the food texture by grinding it, cutting it into manageable bite-size pieces, or serving softer-textured foods such as porridge, scrambled eggs, or custard puddings.

In cases where attention spans are shortened, and meals are easily forgotten or may not be consumed at all, caregivers can take steps to reduce distractions during mealtime, such as eliminating background noise from the radio or TV. Additionally, it is helpful to present one dish at a time and use smaller plates or bowls to avoid overwhelming the individual with too many food options. Moreover, caregivers can maintain a food diary to keep a record of the patient’s dietary intake. Importantly, it is essential to promote independence during meals to preserve the individual’s motor skills, including self-feeding. Be prepared to assist when necessary.

What kind of diet can help to prevent and reduce the risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease?

The diet recommended for preventing Alzheimer’s disease is known as the MIND diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay diet. It combines elements of both Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating patterns.

The MIND diet places a strong emphasis on daily and weekly recommendations for specific foods and food groups. For instance, it encourages the consumption of at least two servings of vegetables and berries on a daily basis, with a particular focus on including at least one serving of green leafy vegetables every day.

One of the reasons for this emphasis is that these food groups are rich sources of antioxidants and phytochemicals, which have demonstrated protective effects on cells against free radicals. Vitamin E is one nutrient known to be beneficial in countering the effects of aging, and in addition to fruits and vegetables, natural sources of vitamin E include almonds, peanuts, and vegetable oils like sunflower and safflower oil.

Furthermore, the MIND diet recommends the consumption of protein-rich sources such as fatty fish and poultry. Fatty fish, in particular, is known to contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA. Numerous studies have indicated a positive link between DHA and the reduction of oxidative stress in the brain, which may aid in slowing the onset and progression of cognitive impairment, especially for individuals at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Here’s an example of how the MIND diet could look in real life:

Breakfast

MIND DIET

Toasted / Steamed whole-wheat bread with scrambled egg, strawberries as sides

Lunch

MIND DIET

Stir-fried chicken, served with sauté pok choy and brown rice

Dinner

MIND DIET

Pan-Seared fish with pasta, served with roasted vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, carrot)

Snacks

MIND DIET

Yogurt with berries
or
Mixed berry smoothie

While it is unfortunate that we currently do not have cure for Alzheimer’s disease, the aging population can certainly focus on practicing healthy lifestyle choices to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s or delay its progression, such as healthy balanced diet like the MIND diet and physical activity. Whether you are 40 or 60 years old, it is never too late to start a healthier lifestyle, which can protect yourself and your family from the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Speak with our Dietitian, to find out more on Alzheimer’s disease diet management and plan today!
Dietitian Olivia

Ms. Olivia O Pau Hui

Dietitian

Manager, Dietetics & Nutrition

Specialty

Dietetics and Nutrition

Languages

English, Mandarin, Bahasa Malaysia

Qualification

Master of Dietetics (Monash University, Australia), Bachelor of Nutrition Science (Monash University, Australia)

Training

Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) in AUS, member of Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA)

Dietitian Olivia

Ms. Olivia O Pau Hui

Dietitian

Manager, Dietetics & Nutrition

Specialty

Dietetics and Nutrition

Languages

English, Mandarin, Bahasa Malaysia

Qualification

Master of Dietetics (Monash University, Australia), Bachelor of Nutrition Science (Monash University, Australia)

Training

Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) in AUS, member of Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA)

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