Senior Health

Superfoods That Can Improve Your Memory

While many superfood compounds are made available in pill form as nutritional supplements, they are most readily absorbed and utilized by your body in their natural form, as foods.

Dr. Susan Taylor Mayne, professor at Yale University, told the Scientific American, “A major problem with supplements is that they deliver nutrients out of context. The vitamins found in fruits, vegetables and other foods come with thousands of other phytochemicals, or plant nutrients that are not essential for life but may protect against… Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic ailments.”

Memory Boosting Superfoods That Fight Alzheimer’s” an article, discusses the best superfoods for the brain, which you can find at any supermarket.

So next time you go shopping, treat yourself to some of the delicious, nutritious brain-healthy foods below:

Leafy Greens and Other Vegetables

Vegetables, particularly leafy green vegetables, have been shown to have protective effects on the brain according to research published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology. Research shows that not just leafy greens are beneficial, but vegetable intake in general, is beneficial for your health.

A study in the Journal of Nutritional Health and Aging states clearly: “Increased intake of vegetables is associated with a lower risk of dementia and slower rates of cognitive decline in old age.”

One important note: seniors who take blood thinners should avoid greens like kale which is high in vitamin K, as this can potentially cause dangerous drug interactions.

Fish, Flax Seeds and Nuts

According to research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, omega-3 fatty acids, which are commonly found in some fish, grains and nuts, can potentially help to slow the rate of decline in Alzheimer’s.

Similar findings were reported in the European Journal of Nutrition. Both studies acknowledge further research is necessary and the Alzheimer’s Association adds, “there is not yet sufficient evidence to recommend any omega-3 fatty acids to treat Alzheimer’s disease.”

Because foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids are naturally some of the healthiest foods there are, they are beneficial to whole-body health even if the scientific community hasn’t confirmed that they can actually slow Alzheimer’s.

Chocolate, Coffee and Spices

Chocolate and coffee contain caffeine, which studies have shown can improve brain function and memory.

A study in the International Journal of Molecular Scienceindicated that caffeine may “slow Alzheimer’s disease pathology” through inhibiting a neurotransmitter believed to be associated with Alzheimer’s, acetylcholinesterase. A study published in Molecular Medicine Reports seemed to confirm potential benefits, finding that daily caffeine intake is associated with “significantly increased memory capability,” and may “reverse memory impairment.”

Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric are also rich in their own unique compounds and may have multiple cognitive benefits. The journal Central Nervous Systems Agents in Medicinal Chemistry says, “the neuroprotective effects of spices have been demonstrated and, whether directly or indirectly, such beneficial effects may also contribute to an improvement in cognitive function.” Spices contain so many compounds that they have multiple potential beneficial modes of action, including “anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-hypertensive and gluco-regulatory.”

Dark Skinned Fruits with Antioxidants

Scientists have also been exploring the benefits of antioxidants and there is some evidence that dietary antioxidants may improve cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

For example, one study reported on in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that an antioxidant may be able to reduce plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s. Foods high in antioxidants include: berries like raspberries, strawberries, oranges and other dark skinned fruits.

Healthy Oils Like Coconut Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Coconut oil is being investigated for its Alzheimer’s fighting effects. One study, found in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, even investigated the possibility of using coconut oil to replace an approved medicine used to treat Alzheimer’s (caprylidene).

While further research is required, there is strong anecdotal evidence for the benefits of coconut oil for dementia. Dr. Mary T. Newport’s book, “Alzheimer’s Disease: What if There Was a Cure?,“ strongly argues that coconut coconut oil may help people with Alzheimer’s.

Olive oil also contains the above mentioned compounds, polyphenols. The particular phenols unique to olive oil may be particularly neuroprotective according to a study published in Nutritional Neuroscience.

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Five Tips for Healthy Aging

1. Live an active life

Regular exercise is one of the greatest keys to physical and mental wellbeing. Living an active life will help you stay fit enough to maintain your independence to go where you want to and perform your own activities. Regular exercise may prevent or even provide relief from many common chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, depression, and arthritis, to name a few.

Tips: The key is to stay active, so do something you will enjoy. If you are not the type of person who will stick to a regular gym routine, go on a walk or ride your bike every day instead. Try to incorporate aerobic, balance, and muscle strengthening activities into your routine. Think about what works best for you, consult your doctor, and get moving!

2. Eat healthy foods

The majority of adults in the US consume more than double the recommended daily allowance of sodium, which can lead to hypertension and cardiovascular disease; most of this high sodium intake comes from pre-packaged foods and restaurants.

Tips: Eat nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods. Avoid sweet, salty, and highly processed foods. Keep in mind that each person has different dietary needs – follow your doctor's suggestions regarding dietary restrictions

3. Maintain your brain

One in eight older adults (aged 65+) in the United States has Alzheimer's disease, and some cognitive decline is a normal part of aging. Studies have shown that a lifestyle that includes cognitive stimulation through active learning slows cognitive decline.

Tips: Never stop learning and challenging your mind! Take dance lessons, learn a new language, attend lectures at a local university, learn to play a musical instrument, or read a book.

4. Cultivate your relationships

Twenty-eight percent of older adults live alone, and living alone is the strongest risk factor for loneliness. Common life changes in older adulthood, such as retirement, health issues, or the loss of a spouse, may lead to social isolation. At Renaissance, you are surrounded by Members that you can begin to cultivate relationships with every day. 

Tips: Maintain communication with your family and friends, especially after a significant loss or life change. Schedule regular time to meet with friends and family – over coffee, during a weekly shared meal, or around a common interest. Reach out to friends who might be isolated or feel lonely.

5. Get enough sleep

Humans can go longer without food than without sleep. Older adults need just as much sleep as younger adults – seven to nine hours per night – but often get much less. Lack of sleep can cause depression, irritability, increased fall risk, and memory problems.

Tips: Develop a regular schedule with a bedtime routine. Keep your bedroom dark and noise-free— avoid watching television or surfing the internet while in bed. Stay away from caffeine late in the day.

5 Common Questions Adult Children Have About Senior Living

While each family’s situation is unique, many people have the same concerns.

Here are a few of the questions I often hear from families who are just beginning this complex journey:

1. How do I know when it’s time to think about senior care?

If you have any doubts about a particular behavior or you see something that feels like a red flag, it’s a good time to reach out for professional help. Even seemingly small things such as urinary tract infections can cause confusion and memory issues. If your loved one is showing behavior or personality changes or if they seem to be covering up memory issues, then a visit to their physician is warranted. Other telling clues including staying in bed, not wanting to get dressed and evidence of recent falls like bruises or cuts.

2. How do I broach the topic of senior care with my loved one?

Having the conversation about senior care can be difficult for everyone involved.

Seniors are afraid of losing their independence; of being abandoned or feeling as if they are a non-functioning member of society. Many of them picture senior living as an institutional setting where they will end up spending all day in a wheelchair watching television.

This is not what assisted living or independent senior living is about. Once seniors and their families tour communities they are often delighted by the activities, dining and individual apartments. Today’s senior living communities allow residents to come and go as they please, drive their own cars (as long as they are licensed drivers) and live their own lives.

Many adult children become frustrated when their loved ones or parents refuse to accept help or don’t understand that they need help. They may think they are managing just fine without it. A lack of awareness of impairment is common in stroke survivors or people who are suffering from dementia. It can be challenging to reason with people who have some cognitive impairment or with people who are very negative or unwilling to compromise in any way.

3. How do I deal with the guilt?

If they have talked about senior living at all, many adult children have promised their parents that they will care for them or that they will never “put them away.” You may feel guilty when you realize you can no longer care for your parents because of their advanced dementia, physical disabilities or other circumstances. You may even feel like moving them to senior living means you are breaking your promise to them. But, ultimately, by bringing them to a place this equipped to handle their needs and by bringing them to a social space, you are ultimately providing them with exactly what they need- even if they don't know it yet. 

4. What is senior living really like?

Senior living communities offer seniors that chance to stay active, to enjoy relationships and remain independent in a safe and stimulating environment. Renaissance provides restaurant-style dining so residents and their guests feel like they are going out to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are blown away by the quality of the food and the choices offered.

Every community’s goal is to have as active a community as possible. Renaissance includes a cafe, movie theater, parlors, and much more. There are also art classes, exercise classes, book clubs, and yoga classes offered to residents. Transportation is provided for trips to local attractions, events and restaurants.

The only way to know is to visit a senior living community. Chances are you’ll be surprised.

5. How long does it take someone to settle into senior living?

We find that within a month or so of moving to a community most seniors are having so much fun they don’t want to leave! Between the new friends, activities, fantastic staff, and great food, it makes it easy for them to adjust to their new fun surroundings!