A Holistic Approach to Alzheimer’s Treatment and Prevention: In the Kitchen with Sam Downing, MD

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Chances are, you know or care for someone with Alzheimer’s dementia.  One in nine Americans over age 65 have the disease, and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, that number is growing fast.  Along with memories, Alzheimer’s dementia takes away vibrancy of life and places a large burden on caregivers — many of whom provide unpaid, at-home support.

In our latest episode of YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen, Dr. Sam Downing, Director of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center, talks about the role the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program plays in supporting patients and caregivers in our community.  He also shares diet and lifestyle advice for prevention while helping to prepare a delicious, brain-boosting meal.

Recipe for Agrodolce Blueberries

Focus on Prevention

Lifestyle, diet, education, health care, and environment all play a role in preventing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  In fact, the 2020 recommendations of the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care suggest that these twelve actions could prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases worldwide:

  • Prevent or effectively manage diabetes
  • Prevent or effectively manage high blood pressure
  • Prevent head injury
  • Stop smoking
  • Prevent midlife obesity
  • Maintain lifelong, frequent physical activity
  • Avoid excessive alcohol
  • Reduce air pollution
  • Effectively address and treat depression
  • Effectively address and treat hearing loss
  • Maintain healthy social interaction
  • Encourage higher education and lifelong mental stimulation

The Diet Connection

Research shows that diet supports brain health indirectly by preventing diabetes, hypertension, midlife obesity, and cardiovascular disease.  In addition, data from MRI studies suggest that Mediterranean-eating styles, which feature flavorful, plant-forward meals, may directly protect the parts of the brain that are most often damaged in dementia.

In other research, scientists involved with the MIND Study (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) examined the effects of combining aspects of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets; highlighting foods linked to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  The results, which are promising, suggest that frequent consumption of the following foods may offer protection:

  • Berries                                     2 or more servings per week
  • Green leafy vegetables            6 or more servings per week
  • Other vegetables                     1 or more servings per day
  • Whole grains                           3 or more servings per day
  • Olive oil                                   Primary oil in diet
  • Beans                                      3 or more servings per week
  • Nuts                                        5 or more servings per week
  • Fish                                         1 or more servings per week
  • Poultry                                     2 or more servings per week
  • Wine                                        1 or less serving per day

For more brain-boosting meal ideas, remember to check out all of our informative videos and delicious, plant-forward recipes at yrmchealthconnect.org.  There is something there for everyone and each recipe has been curated or created with ease or preparation, affordability and long-term health in mind.  All of our recipes fit into the Mediterranean eating style that is linked with prevention of dementia and other chronic diseases.  You can also follow me on Facebook at YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen, where I post photos, videos and recipes for the meals I make at home, plus links to my favorite food, cooking and gardening sites on the web.