Haims column: Alzheimer’s — think you’re not a candidate? | PostIndependent.com

Haims column: Alzheimer’s — think you’re not a candidate?

Can you recall all the times your parents told you that you need to eat your vegetables or that sugar is bad for you? They may have been on to something.

The frequency and amounts of red meat, dairy products, breakfast cereal, bread and soft drinks you consume will affect more than just your weight. Most likely, a lifestyle of eating such foods in greater amounts will affect your mind and may even contribute to the possibility of getting Alzheimer’s.

Conversely, diets that promote a lifestyle of eating heart healthy foods may do more than keep your waistline in check; they may assist in curtailing the onset of cognitive dysfunction.

According to the USDA, the average adult male in the U.S. consumes about 2,640 calories daily. Unfortunately, about 40 percent — or nearly 1,000 — of these calories consist of sweeteners and added fats like seed oils, soybean oil, canola oil, butter and lard. By the same token, only about 424 calories of dairy, fruits and vegetables are eaten daily.


Our choices for quality food could be better. I recently read that, “38 percent of adults in the U.S. report consuming fruits less than one time daily, and less than 22 percent report eating vegetables daily.”

When it comes to Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and cognitive function, diet absolutely plays a role. While you may think that all you can do is hope for the best and wait for a pharmaceutical cure for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementias, the truth is much more encouraging.

The brain, like any organ or muscle, is affected by the foods we eat. Diets and lifestyles that promote higher quantities of leafy greens, vegetables, nuts, berries and omega-3 fats are proving to matter in reducing inflammation, which causes damage to blood vessels and tissue in the brain.


Developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, the MIND diet aims to lower the risk of AD by promoting brain healthy foods. It is a combination of two diet philosophies, the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

The MIND diet includes foods and nutrients that medical literature and data show to be good for the brain, such as berries, green leafy veggies, nuts, beans, fish and poultry. While it is considered a “diet,” it really is more of a lifestyle, as it advocates a healthy way of eating.

Inflammatory dietary pattern

In general, inflammation is your body’s first line of defense against infection and injury. It can be both a friend and foe.

The goal of the body’s acute inflammatory reaction is to bring white blood cells and plasma proteins to the site of infection and/or tissue damage. It is a local response to cellular injury that is marked by increased blood flow and capillary dilatation.

However, inflammation can turn on your body. When this happens, it is called chronic or systemic inflammation. This happens when inflammation starts to attack healthy cells, blood vessels, and tissues instead of protecting them.

Some the foods that cause inflammation include:

• Saturated fats — red fatty meats, processed meats, full-fat dairy, palm oil.

• Trans fat — fried food, fast food, processed snack food, stick margarine.

• Sugar

• Refined carbohydrates — white rice, white potatoes (instant mashed potatoes, or french fries) and many cereals.

• Gluten and Casein — dairy and wheat

• Artificial sweeteners


Worldwide, research shows that it may be possible to deter cognitive decline via a combination of healthy habits. While age and genetics may play a roll in your risk factors, exercise, social engagement, mental stimulation, diet and even quality sleep are proving to help in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

While results from diets and healthy lifestyles of eating vary widely, the MIND diet has scientifically proven to reduce the risk of hypertension, heart attack and stroke and provide protection against dementia.

I recently read a study published within The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association that stated, “The MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent in participants who adhered to the diet rigorously, and by about 35 percent in those who followed it moderately.” Those are pretty supportive and promising statistics.

If you think you may be a candidate for getting Alzheimer’s, dementia or heart disease, perhaps such a diet/lifestyle change may be worth adopting.

As with any diet, consult with a doctor before starting any new diet plan.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Glenwood Springs, Basalt, Aspen and the surrounding areas. His contact information is, http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns, 970-328-5526.

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