We all know someone who has been affected by dementia – a group of diseases that cause memory loss and problems with cognitive skills and social abilities. However, what many people don’t realize is what you eat can help delay the potential onset of dementia, or even help slow the progression of the disease for those who are already dealing with it.
Joanna Smyers, a registered dietitian in our Greenville market, works with a number of patients who are experiencing dementia or have seen a family member suffer from it. She’s spent a lot of time familiarizing herself and others on the Mediterranean and DASH diets – two methods recommended for help dealing with dementia. In 2015, the two were combined to form the MIND diet, which stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
“The Mediterranean diet focuses on leafy greens, whole grains, chicken, fish, olive oil, fruits, nuts, seeds and beans. Meanwhile, the DASH diet focuses on reducing hypertension,” Joanna explains. “What we see is a combination of two diets where we have foods high in antioxidants that have been shown to improve mental cognition. The reduction of hypertension from the diet is important, too, because we often see high blood pressure as a cause of dementia.”
The MIND diet recommends avoiding foods such as red meat, butter, whole fat cheeses, fried foods and sweets.
“These are things that are going to be lower in nutritional value and antioxidants, and higher in things such as saturated fats and sugars,” Joanna shares. “We can see these contributions affecting things such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol as well as leading to things such as obesity.”
While the word “diet” may intimidate some, it’s not about restriction. Instead, it’s better to think of it as a dietary approach to enforcing healthy habits that can strengthen and protect your mind.
“In addition to these healthy habits, we also want regular physical activity,” Joanna adds. “The recommendation for physical activity is about 300 minutes a week for adults. That can be broken up into five hours throughout the week, one-hour chunks, or even smaller amounts of time. It all counts towards those 300 minutes a week.”
There is no way to tell if someone is going to develop dementia. Age, genetics and the health of an individual all play into the development of it. However, incorporating healthy habits into your everyday routine can certainly help you avoid dementia.
Before starting the MIND diet or any other diet, talk to your primary care provider to make sure it’s the right fit for your health.