World Alzheimer’s day is observed on September 21 every year, it is an international campaign organised to raise awareness, educate people about the condition and focuses on issues encountered by people affected by dementia. This condition is a neurodegenerative disease that mildly progresses as people age, where brain functions decline with the age leading to forgetfulness, depression, irritability and episodes of hallucination.
It is common in older people above 60 years and rarely shows up in people around 30-60 years which is termed as early-onset Alzheimer’s. Even today there exist a stigma related to mental disorders all over the world. This year theme is “Let’s talk about dementia” and highlight the need for talking about dementia and challenge the stigma that surrounds it.
Statistics report revealed that about 44 to 50 million people globally have one or other kind of dementia and about 4 million people in India have Alzheimer’s. The main aim of this health day is to emphasise people to take time to talk about the condition which can have a positive impact on people affected by it and enhance their quality of life.
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What is Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative condition of the brain, where the neurons (brain cells) slowly degrade and in most cases the disease is often unnoticed until considerable damage had happened. As per the Alzheimer’s disease International, it almost takes about 20 years for a patient to show symptoms and most people just survive with this disease. It is a progressive disease that hinders memory, mental abilities and loss of vital cognitive abilities which eventually hamper a person daily life activities. Also Read: Which Is Worse: Dementia Or Alzheimer's?
Some of the factors that increase the risk of developing this condition include:
Age: older people are more susceptible and the risk doubles every five years after the age of 65.
Gender: Women are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer as man, hormonal changes during menopause increase the risk.
Lifestyle: People who lead an unhealthy lifestyle are at higher risk.
Read through this article to get an overview of ways to encourage people with Alzheimer’s to eat healthily.
Guide To Healthy Eating
There’s no particular diet for people living with this condition, however, good nutrition can help to ease symptoms and make them feel better. Good nutrition is vital to keep the body strong and healthy. For Alzheimer’s patient, poor nutrition may increase behavioural symptoms and lead to weight loss.
Practising mindful eating behaviour and having a balanced meal plan is the basic rules for a healthy living that implies to all. Planning a meal plan with holistic strategies can help boost the health of people living with Alzheimer’s. Also Read: The MIND Diet: Here’s Why You Should Eat These Top 10 Foods For Brain Health And Memory
- Add a rich array of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and low-fat dairy that support to improve brain functions and boost memory.
- Cut down on foods with high saturated fat and cholesterol. Prefer healthy source of fats such as olive oil, sesame oil, mustard oil and nuts. Stay away from fats that are bad for heart health like butter, lard and red meat.
- Limit foods that are high on refined and processed sugars which are loaded with calories but lack essential nutrients. Go for a healthy alternative to tame a sweet tooth with dry fruits, fruits or fruit juices instead of baked foods.
- Avoid eating too much salt and foods that contain high sodium. As too much sodium in the diet affects blood pressure. Add spices or herbs to season foods as an alternative to enhance the taste.
- Staying hydrated is very essential, maintain good hydration by giving the patients small cups of water or liquids throughout the day or food with high water content such as fruit, soups, hot beverages and smoothies.
Make Mealtimes Simpler And Comfortable
As the disease advances, people with Alzheimer’s may have a lot of distractions, too many choices and changes in taste and smell can make eating more difficult. Following these tips may help:
- Limit distractions – serve meals in a quiet environment, away from noise and television.
- Minimal table setting- avoid placing too many items on the table such as plastic fruit which may confuse the person. Use only the utensils needed for the meal.
- Check the food temperature- a person with Alzheimer may not be able to tell if the food is too hot to eat or drink. Hence, always check the temperature of foods and beverages before serving.
- Serve only one or two foods at a time, as too many food options may be overwhelming. Keep it minimal by serving one dish at a time.
- Prepare meals considering the likes and dislikes.
- Provide ample time to eat, remind the person to chew food thoroughly and not to swallow. If a person has trouble chewing it could be a risk of choking. Serve food that is easier to eat and digest.
- Provide small frequent meals or snacks. Eating five or six times a day makes it easier to fulfil the nutritional needs.
- Provide foods that are easy to eat such as finger foods, sandwiches, steamed vegetables and fruit cuts.
- Eat together- make mealtime more enjoyable, even studies reveal the people eat better when they are in the company of others.
- Get them involved in simple exercises which can promote appetite and boost metabolism. Encourage them to take walks, garden or do simple activities to stay active.