Diet & Exercise
The MIND Diet
There is a lot of research showing what you eat has a major impact on your brain. A recent study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago shows your diet can dramatically lower the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53%! It’s called the MIND diet and even for those who didn’t completely stick to it, it still lowered their risk of Alzheimer’s by a third!
Diet seems to be one of many determining factors of getting the illness, but the MIND diet has been shown to slow the rate of cognitive decline and protect against Alzheimer’s regardless of other risk factors. The MIND diet is divided into “brain healthy food groups” and “unhealthy food groups”. It’s a hybrid of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Here’s what we know.
GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES You want two servings of these a day. Broccoli, kale, spinach, collards and other greens are loaded with vitamins A and C, and other healing nutrients. So, try to have a salad and at least one other vegetable daily to lower your risk of Alzheimer’s.
OTHER VEGETABLES Yes, they’re great, too! Eating any other vegetables were also found to be beneficial for creating a healthy barrier for the brain.
SPICES This category is all about inflammation. Cinnamon, turmeric, sage and cumin are among spices that help break up brain plaque. That can help reduce the inflammation that affects brain function. Aromatic turmerone, a compound found in turmeric, was tested on the neural stem cells of rats, and the study found the cells multiplied faster and increased the brain’s ability to heal itself.
MILK The University of Kansas Medical Center did research that revealed that three glasses of milk every day could help to prevent Alzheimer’s, as well as Parkinson’s, by preventing damage to brain cells. In healthy older people, they found a link between drinking milk and increasing the levels of the antioxidant, glutathione, which is believed to help prevent oxidative stress and the resulting brain damage.
NUTS The MIND study recommends eating them at least five times a week. Nuts contain the right amounts of fiber, fats and antioxidants for optimal brain health and they also reduce the chances of heart disease and lower bad cholesterol.
BERRIES Blueberries are among the most powerful for protecting the brain. Strawberries are good for brain protection, too. The MIND diet says to eat them twice a week. Because they absorb heavy metals such as iron, researchers found that eating purple colored fruit, like blueberries, could help ward off Alzheimer’s and other diseases .
FISH AND POULTRY Put fish on your menu at least once a week to protect brain function. The Mediterranean diet recommends eating fish almost daily, but the MIND diet says once a week is sufficient. Chicken is ok to eat just about every day.
OLIVE OIL Researchers discovered that mostly using olive oil at home is best for staving off cognitive decline and for boosting brain health.
WINE Well, ONE glass of wine! The MIND diet suggests drinking a glass of red wine each day.
BEANS AND WHOLE GRAINS You can snack on nuts most days and aim for a half cup of beans every other day.
Most caregivers experience several forms of stress associated with caring for a loved one. From headaches, to increased blood pressure and weight gain, stress can wreak havoc on a caregiver’s well-being. Exercise can provide an inner reserve to draw upon when caregivers reach the breaking point caring for someone else.
There’s no magic cure for the demands of caregiving, but exercise does provide a valuable outlet. It doesn’t have to be about going to a gym, there are lots of simple ways to incorporate the benefits of exercise into an already overwhelmed schedule. The idea is to work movement into your daily routine.
If you’ve never done either of these things before, don’t be discouraged. It’s as simple as stretching and breathing. Research shows that stretching and strengthening your muscles while calming your breath is positive for anyone, but it’s especially good for caregivers. A recent study of Alzheimer’s caregivers by UCLA found that meditative yoga showed a huge payoff with improvement in depressive symptoms in 65% of study participants over only 2 months! Why not check out a virtual yoga or meditation class online from home? Also, there are lots of apps to help you time your practice.
It's easy and readily available but can have significant health impacts. Start with as little as 10 to 15 minutes a few times per week and you’ll see the benefits of a regular routine. Walk briskly and slowly build to 30 to 60 minutes at a time. What can you expect? Well, it will help lower blood pressure, raise good cholesterol, reduce body fat and give your mind a chance to relax.
Gardening and Household Chores
Attack your regular chore list with the knowledge that you are going for maximum physical benefit. If you have to stretch to get something, do it again. Bending to pick things up? Turn it into a series of bends. Do things at a quicker pace, or sing while you do your chores and look for benefits to your health and mood.
Weekly Exercise Classes
Whether it’s a dance class or water aerobics, many caregivers look forward to regular classes. It’s a good way to find a sense of community and can provide a routine. Whether you’re going to a community center, or joining a class online, exercise classes are a great escape. If all this sounds good to you, but you don’t know how to fit it in, look for ways to hire a home care agency for respite care for a couple of hours, or coordinate with a family member to fill in so you can take some much needed time for yourself. Guaranteed it will make you a better caregiver and likely result in better care for your loved one. Taking time for self-care by practicing yoga, speed walking (or at least strolling) down the street, or joining an online class can have a tremendous impact on your physical and mental well-being.