Dementia is a neurodegenerative disorder that typically victimizes senior individuals that are aged 65 and above. As of 2015, there were approximately 46.8 million dementia patients worldwide with every 3 seconds witnessing a new patient with the mental disorder. Unfortunately, these numbers are nowhere near slowing down.
The Global Voice on Dementia notes that the number of dementia patients will double in every 20 years. In fact, the projected number of patients is expected to strike the markers of 75 million and 131.5 million in 2030 and 2050, respectively. Here is a look at the number of individuals that the degenerative disorder will prey on.
Despite the swelling numbers of dementia victims, there is still no cure in sight. The least that a person can do is to make a patient’s suffering somewhat bearable. This explains the role of medications in mixed dementia or other types of the psychiatric concerns. It also sheds light on the significance of a nutritious diet for patients.
Healthy eating for dementia patients
WebMD declares that there isn’t a specific diet plan for patients with this mental illness. Cognitive decline as part of the disease makes it difficult for the individual to remember to eat. Moreover, a variety of food items can be overwhelming for them.
In addition to a lack of appetite, these folks frequently face the problem of dehydration. It is quite possible for the patient to forget to drink water. At the same time, a caretaker might not be able to recognize that the patient’s indication that he is thirsty.
It is also common for people with dementia to have trouble eating owing to cognitive impairment. Here is a quick look at how you can help your loved one with eating.
With that said, it is important to keep in mind that nutrition plays a significant role in maintaining the health of a dementia patient. Research indicates a poor diet may culminate in weight loss and enhance the behavioral symptoms of the disorder. A study stresses on the need of nutritional care as a critical aspect of dementia management.
To this end, here is a list of foods that dementia patients should eat:
1. Leafy greens – It is vital to include leafy greens in the diet of people with dementia. These vegetables include kale, arugula, mustard greens, and Swiss chard. These leafy greens are rich sources of vitamin B9 or folate, which is credited for improving cognition among senior folks.
Folate is applauded for staving off depression, which is a common side effect of dementia. It helps boost serotonin levels. On top it, a study points out the link between declined folate levels and poor response to drugs such as antidepressants. Furthermore, the vitamin E in leafy vegetables contributes positively to brain health.
2. Fibre-enriched foods – Certain medications can result in constipation in people who have dementia. Fibre helps to bring down the odds of constipation by promoting smooth digestion. In this regard, vegetables, whole grain cereals and bread, beans, and fruits are good sources of fibre.
Researchers at the Ohio State University Medical Center suggest that an individual should introduce additional fiber slowly in his diet. According to the institute, men aged above 50 should take 30 grams of fiber. At the same time, women above the age marker of 50 should include 21 grams of fiber daily.
3. Spices, sauces, and seasoning – Patients with dementia commonly have a dry mouth, as they produce less saliva. This makes it difficult for the person to chew and swallow food. With this in the background, research recommends that their diet should include thickened fluids. This translates into adding foods that include gravies, and soups.
As a person ages, his sense of taste also weakens. Therefore, spices and sauces can help add flavor to the food and stimulate the taste buds. Furthermore, some spices exhibit antioxidant properties and boost memory as well. For instance, cinnamon is known for improving cognitive processing. Sage and curcumin are also known for enhancing memory and lessening inflammation in the brain, respectively. While adding spices, it is crucial to limit the use of salt, which can result in health concerns such as hypertension.
4. Seeds – Seeds are a powerful source of vitamin E. These are commended for helping curtail age-induced cognitive decline. Some good seeds to add to the diet are sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and flaxseeds.
Sunflower seeds are enriched with choline, which is a compound that betters brain function. On the other hand, pumpkin seeds are packed with zinc that contributes to improved cognitive and memory function. It also contains tryptophan that fights depression. Lastly, flaxseeds provide a good dose of omega-3 fatty acids that boost memory.
5. Fish – A study found out that eating broiled or baked fish helped lower the chances of developing brain lesion. Their presence correlates with dementia and memory loss. It concluded that the participants who had fish enriched with omega-3s were able to lower their risk of having brain lesions by 26%. This was in comparison with the control group participants who did not have fatty fish at least thrice a week.
Fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that are great for brain health. It also boasts anti-inflammatory properties that control inflammatory damage to the brain. Other sources of omega 3s are nuts including walnuts, almonds, and pecans. These are commonly taken as part of a preventative dementia diet that helps fend off the risk of developing the degenerative disorder.
Maintaining a balanced diet in the case of dementia patients can be challenging. It is essential to add fish, seeds, leafy green vegetables, and gravies to the diet of a loved one with dementia. Some people with the disorder also face difficulty in swallowing. This condition is referred to as dysphagia. To deal with this, it is essential to feed patients with pureed vegetables instead of raw ones. You can also focus on beverages and thickened soups. Add some taste to these by using spices and seasonings.
Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter @meetalycia