How Diet Can Help Long-Term Brain Health

Author

The Pineapple House at Sapphire Lakes

For more information about the author, click to view their website: The Pineapple House at Sapphire Lakes

Posted on

Aug 08, 2023

Book/Edition

Florida - Southwest

Share This

As a senior, you face a number of nutrition challenges as you age. You may be less hungry because of a slower metabolism and less physical activity. You may lose interest in eating because of changes in their sense of smell and taste. You may have health problems, such as gastrointestinal changes and dental problems, that make eating uncomfortable. And you may be on medications that suppress hunger or interfere with eating.

Another factor is that 5.2 million seniors are considered “food insecure” according to a study by Feeding America, which means they lack consistent access to enough food.

Proper nutrition is vitally important for body health and brain health, too. Good nutrition can help fight off cognitive decline, and may help in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Find out what you need to know about good nutrition for seniors, the best foods and nutrients to eat for brain health, and some foods and substances to avoid. 

The Importance of Good Nutrition As You Age

Good nutrition is always important, at any age. Along with maintaining energy and weight, the right foods may also help prevent diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. With poor nutrition, you may face complications including chronic health problems, lower energy levels and weakened immune systems.

How Seniors Can Meet Their Nutritional Needs

You should consider these factors when considering nutritional needs, from MyPlate.gov:

  • Drink water often. You may lose your sense of thirst as they age, making dehydration a real risk. Stay away from added sugars or salts, and learn which beverages are the better choices for your circumstances.
  • Eat a variety of foods. Use the food groups as a guideline, and try to eat from each one regularly. Choose foods with little or no added saturated fats, sodium or sugar.
  • Focus on nutrients. You often need support with calcium, dietary fiber, potassium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
  • Get enough protein. That protein, which can help maintain muscle mass, can be taken in through such meats as lean beef, white meat poultry and seafood, or dairy, eggs and beans.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Watch portions and limit snacks to healthy options, for example carrots or celery, supplemented with peanut butter or raisins.

>> Read “Senior Nutrition: Healthy Meals for the Elderly

How Foods Can Help or Hurt Your Brain Health

Brain health goes hand in hand with body health, but there are special considerations with the brain. Certain nutrients are best for brain health, and certain foods can hurt the brain. 

The Best Nutrients To Help Support Brain Health

A study by the National Institutes of Health confirms that specific nutrients can help support brain health, which boosts cognition and emotional health. 

Some of the best nutrients include:

  • Antioxidants – Antioxidants help protect the brain from damage and might also help with inflammation and memory loss. Broccoli, carrots, potatoes and spinach are all high in antioxidants.
  • B vitamins –  B vitamins like B12 and folic acid help make and maintain brain chemicals. They also break food down into energy for the whole body. Good sources of B vitamins include dairy, eggs, leafy greens, legumes, meat, poultry and seafood. 
  • Choline – This nutrient is used in many chemical reactions in the body. It’s important for the development of normal brain function and in the maintenance of the nervous system. Like B vitamins, choline is found in dairy, eggs, fish, meat and poultry.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – Fatty acids create the cell structure and are vital for the proper function of the nervous system. Fish and other seafood, along with nuts and seeds, are high in omega-3s.
  • Vitamin E – This vitamin protects cells from being destroyed by other processes in the body. Vitamin E is found in nuts and seeds, greens and some seafood.

It’s important to take in these nutrients from a variety of food sources in a healthy, balanced diet.

> Read “The Top 10 Foods for a Healthy Brain

The Worst Foods for Your Brain Health

There are several foods that can negatively impact your brain. Healthline lists these seven worst foods for your brain:

  • Alcohol – Consumed in excess, alcohol can harm the brain. Chronic use decreases brain volume and disrupts neurotransmitters in the brain. It also can lead to behavioral changes,  memory loss and sleep disruption.
  • Aspartame – This artificial sweetener is used in many sugar-free products, but has been linked to behavioral and cognitive problems. It also may impair memory and increase stress in the brain.
  • Highly processed foods – These convenient foods tend to be high in fats, salt and sugar, and low in nutrients. They cause weight gain and have a negative effect on your brain. 
  • Mercury – The heavy metal mercury can contaminate fish, which when ingested by humans concentrates in the brain, kidneys and liver. Mercury toxicity disrupts the central nervous system and neurotransmitters and stimulates neurotoxins, resulting in brain damage. Mercury can be found mostly in wild seafood, so intake should be limited.
  • Refined carbohydrates – These include highly processed grains, such as white flour, and sugar. They can spike your blood sugar and insulin levels. A study published in the medical journal Nutrients says high glycemic load can impair memory. Excessive carbohydrates may also cause inflammation, which is recognized as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
  • Sugary drinks – Energy drinks, soda, sports drinks and even fruit juice can contain too much sugar. An excessive intake of sugary drinks can increase the odds of developing type 2 diabetes, which is a risk indicator for Alzheimer’s disease. High blood sugar also increases risks of dementia, even for those without diabetes.
  • Trans fats – Natural unsaturated fats are not an issue when consumed in animal products like dairy and meat, but artificial trans fats in frosting, margarine, pre-packaged foods, shortening and snack foods can impair brain health. Studies have found an increased risk of Alzheimer’s, cognitive decline, decreased brain volume and poor memory with higher consumption of artificial trans fats.

Live a Healthy Life at a Senior Lifestyle Community

Senior Lifestyle communities take your health in mind. From food to keep you healthy and satisfied, to exercise and fitness programs to keep you trim and energized, we help you live a carefree lifestyle.

>> Read “5 Nutritional Benefits of Retirement Community Living

Find out more about Senior Lifestyle or schedule a visit today.

Other Articles You May Like

Priority Life Care's Along the Journey Program

THE ALONG THE JOURNEY PROGRAM WAS CREATED BY PRIORITY LIFE CARE WITH RESIDENTS, THEIR FAMILIES, AND CAREGIVERS IN MIND.The services provided are adjusted to fit each individuals abilities and specific needs. The program has been designed to benefit all stages of memory loss while remaining flexible enough to be adapted daily.The overarching goal is to ensure that each resident, as well as their families, feel connected, respected, and comfortable during periods of difficult transition. The program primarily targets those suffering from memory impairments, whether it be early-stage dementia or late-stage Alzheimers.WHAT IS THE ALONG THE JOURNEY PROGRAM?Along the Journey (ATJ) is a memory care program that launched in 2019 in Priority Life Cares memory care neighborhoods. Fundamentally, it prioritizes strengths over limitations. Activities are purpose-driven and not based on achievement, thus allowing those with memory loss to participate without feeling lost, confused, and agitated.This innovative program begins with a holistic assessment of the residents abilities, both cognitive and physical. Based on the assessment, a care plan is formulated and includes input from the resident and their family, as well as their physicians and caregivers.The plan includes information on the likes, dislikes, and cultural preferences of the resident. To keep the seniors as comfortable as possible, the staff makes every effort to provide a largely predictable routine.FOSTERING A SENSE OF BELONGING WITHIN THE COMMUNITYThose suffering from diseases that affect memory may feel left behind or forgotten. At Priority Life Care, caregivers work in conjunction with the ATJ program to encourage physical motion, stimulate mental engagement, and offer opportunities for spiritual and social connection.Life stations provide a sense of familiarity for the resident through tasks such as folding clothes and operating a computer. This allows the senior to focus on a specific, low-stress task with an attainable outcome.Social engagements such as trivia games and ice cream parties are scheduled, which allow residents the opportunity to become acquainted with other residents. The program celebrates small wins as significant achievements, allowing everyone the chance to be represented.Activities are thoughtfully designed around reducing any agitation and improving the mood of the residents. Social interaction is encouraged to ward off isolation, which can further impair a residents wellness journey.SUPPORTING THOSE WITH MEMORY IMPAIRMENTSMemory loss comes in stages and Priority Life Care recognizes the importance of providing a program suitable for each stage of this difficult journey. Through the integration of senior-friendly tech, residents across a spectrum of cognitive abilities are encouraged to participate in their care by engaging daily.To ensure a successful transition into the residential community, our staff invites residents to bring familiar furnishings of home such as furniture, cherished items, and other domestic objects. This creates an inviting environment for the resident, which eases the initial discomfort of being in a new place.Residents will enjoy a structured daily plan that focuses on wellness and supporting independence, all while ensuring dignity and respect. This environment allows those with memory impairments to maintain functional abilities for as long as possible while remaining comfortable along their journey.Staff with specific dementia-centered training and experience support our residents with memory loss, including accommodations such as dietary oversight, assistance with medication, and general hygiene.

Nurturing Cognitive Health: Strategies to Maintain Independence and Quality of Life for Seniors

Cognitive health plays a pivotal role in maintaining independence, quality of life, and overall well-being for seniors. As we age, it becomes increasingly important to adopt strategies that promote brain health and preserve cognitive function. In this blog post, we will explore various approaches to nurturing cognitive health in seniors, including engaging in mental exercises, utilizing brain-training apps, adopting a healthy diet, and fostering social engagement. By incorporating these strategies into daily life, seniors can enhance their cognitive abilities, delay cognitive decline, and help them to lead fulfilling and independent lives.Engaging in Mental Exercises - Mental exercises are like workouts for the brain, helping to keep cognitive skills sharp and promoting neural connections. Seniors can engage in various activities that stimulate mental agility:         Solve puzzles such as crosswords, Sudoku, and word searches to enhance problem-solving and critical-thinking skills.         Play strategy games like chess or bridge to stimulate cognitive function and improve memory and concentration.         Learn a new skill or hobby, such as playing a musical instrument, painting, or dancing, to challenge the brain and promote neuroplasticity.         Read books, engage in stimulating discussions, and participate in book clubs to enhance comprehension, vocabulary, and cognitive flexibility.         Practice memorization, as in learning and reciting poetry or even memorizing lists, to help boost memory and recall abilities.Harnessing Brain-Training Apps - In the digital age, technology offers a wealth of brain-training apps specifically designed to promote cognitive health. These apps provide engaging activities that target memory, attention, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills. Some popular brain-training apps include:         Lumosity: Offers various brain games and exercises to improve memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities.         Elevate: Focuses on language skills, math, and analytical thinking through personalized training programs.         Peak: Provides a variety of brain games and puzzles to challenge memory, mental agility, and focus.         CogniFit: Offers scientifically validated cognitive assessments and personalized training programs for memory, attention, and other cognitive functions.Embracing a Healthy Diet - Nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting cognitive health. Seniors can incorporate the following dietary strategies to promote brain health:         Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These nutrients provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support brain function.         Include omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, walnuts, and flaxseeds, as they are known to benefit cognitive health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.         Limit processed foods, sugary snacks, and saturated fats, which can contribute to inflammation and negatively impact cognitive function.         Stay hydrated by drinking an adequate amount of water, as dehydration can impair cognitive abilities.         Consider incorporating brain-boosting foods that are rich in antioxidants and other beneficial nutrients into the diet such as blueberries, avocados, nuts, and dark chocolate.Fostering Social Engagement - Social engagement is not only essential for emotional well-being but also plays a significant role in maintaining cognitive health:         Stay connected with friends and family through regular social interactions, such as phone calls, visits, or participating in group activities.         Join community groups, clubs, or organizations based on personal interests to foster new social connections and engage in stimulating conversations.         Volunteer for community service or charitable organizations, as doing so can provide a sense of purpose, promote social connections, and stimulate cognitive function.         Participate in group fitness classes, dance classes, or sports activities, improving physical health and providing opportunities for social engagement.  

5 Ways Brain and Memory Games Benefit Seniors

Cognitive health is something that we tend to take for granted, but its what allows us to think clearly, learn, and remember. These are all important in our everyday function, but as we age and our bodies begin to change, our brains change as well. Some parts of the brain, including those used in learning and other complicated mental activities, begin to shrink. Blood flow in the brain may decrease, and communication between neurons may become less effective. Even in healthy older adults, these changes can begin to affect our cognitive function, making us slower to recall names and remember words, causing us to struggle with multitasking and diminishing our ability to pay attention. In people with Alzheimers or dementia, this loss of cognitive abilities is progressive.While there isnt a cure for cognitive decline yet, studies indicate there may be a link between brain games and improving cognitive abilities. The research may be inconclusive, but more medical experts are recommending brain games to slow down or prevent senior memory loss. Just as physical exercise keeps your body in shape, certain games and puzzles can keep your brain active and healthy.Five Ways Brain Games and Active Learning Benefit SeniorsBrain games help slow down age-related mental decline.Many seniors experience an age-related mental decline with slower reaction times, diminished vocabulary and a memory that isnt as sharp as it used to be. This is all par for the course of living a long, happy life. However, brain games and active learning can help reengage and improve a persons thinking skills. Its especially helpful if you vary the games played to promote learning new skills, words or trivia facts.Brain games help seniors stay connected with loved ones.Wondering what to do with an aging loved one in your care? Try playing a brain game the whole family can enjoy. Not only will you be giving their brain health a boost, but youll also get the chance to connect with your loved one in a meaningful way. You can include a wider network of friends and family by connecting through a video chat app on your smartphone or tablet while playing online brain games.Brain games can help alleviate senior stress and anxiety.Finishing a crossword puzzle or playing a board game can help ease feelings of stress or anxiety. Playing games is good for the mind and soul, as it keeps people socially active with friends, family or others in their community. Being more social helps eliminate or reduce the feelings of loneliness or depression many seniors face. Who couldnt benefit from a boost in their brain health, mood and social skills?Mastering new skills or games makes seniors feel engaged.Youre never too old to learn a new skill or master a new game. Finding new hobbies as we age is essential to our mental and physical health. If quilting, gardening or photography arent quite your senior loved ones speed, consider helping them explore a new language through the many learning apps on your smartphone or tablet. You can also try your hand at helping them learn a new brain game. Staying in a routine encourages passive brain participation. If we never push our boundaries and develop new cognitive skills, we may start to feel a disconnect with the world around us.Learning and playing games will keep you young at heart.If you want to stay young at heart, the secret is finding new ways to test your cognitive abilities. Its incredible how games that encourage active learning can make people feel younger and smarter while combating the feelings of boredom, restlessness or isolation plaguing todays seniors. Whether its an online version of Jeopardy! or a simple game of match the cards, you cant go wrong with games.Effective Brain Stimulating Games and Activities for SeniorsYou may be wondering whats categorized as a brain game when purchasing gifts for aging loved ones. The truth is that, while just about any game is better than being sedentary and watching television, not every game is effective for slowing cognitive decline. There are a number that allow you to stretch your brain, including:ChessA classic game of strategy, chess helps build logical reasoning and problem-solving skills. It may initially seem complicated, but learning how to play can strengthen cognitive function, increasing IQ and focus. Chess can be played in person or online.CheckersRecent research indicates that regularly playing checkers is connected to larger brain volume and improved cognitive health. Checkers can help improve hand-eye coordination, increase mental acuity, and alleviate stress. Because you play with other people, it can also help provide positive social interaction.ScrabbleScrabble is beneficial for every age group, but particularly for older adults, because it improves memory functions, lowers blood pressure and increases overall general wellbeing. It can be educational, too, because there are sometimes words you and your loved one didnt previously know.Word PuzzlesThere is evidence to suggest that playing games focused on language(Opens in a new window) may lead to improvements in memory, cognitive speed and verbal learning. These games include crosswords, word searches, anagrams, cryptograms, branded games like Mad Libs and online games like the recently released Wordle.Playing CardsCard games help people practice skills like reasoning, problem solving, memory and concentration. Card games can be played with a standard deck of cards or may have cards specific for the game, like Uno.Matching and Memory Games for AdultsBy testing short-term memory and the ability to remember patterns, matching and memory games engage the brain, activating areas related to recall and pattern recognition. Try a card matching game, or a memory game like listing the months of the year in alphabetical order or listing things that start with a certain letter.Trivia GamesPlaying trivia games can be an entertaining experience while also stimulating older adults minds. These games can be played as individual or on teams, and the topics and methods of playing can be modified to meet the needs of the people playing. Team trivia and Trivial Pursuit are two examples of fun trivia games.Brain Stimulating Games for Alzheimers and DementiaThere are many treatments in the works for people with Alzheimers and/or dementia, including new medication and deep brain stimulation. While these treatments show a lot of promise, science has not yet found a cure for these debilitating conditions. There is evidence to indicate, however, that stimulating the brain using certain games can be helpful.Recently, research was reviewed on the role of games in dementia care, looking at board games, video games, and virtual reality games. The review concluded that when people in the early and middle stages of dementia played these games, they saw improvement in a variety of cognitive abilities, including short-term memory, reaction time, problem solving, communication and logical reasoning. More research is needed, but there are some games believed to support a wide variety of cognitive skills for people with dementia.When choosing brain games for adults with dementia, it is important to select games suitable for the individuals cognitive abilities and preferences, carefully creating simple, familiar and non-frustrating experiences. Examples of games and activities for seniors with dementia include:Word PuzzlesAs stated earlier, games focused on language can improve memory, speed and verbal learning. For people with Alzheimers and other forms of dementia, research suggests that playing these games can lead to improvements not only seen through cognitive testing but also through neurophysical tests.Jigsaw PuzzlesWorking on a jigsaw puzzle is a fun way to work on memory and reasoning skills. Jigsaw puzzles come in a variety of difficulties, from simple, easy-to-piece-together puzzles to more complicated puzzles that require quite a bit of hand-eye coordination and memory recall. This makes it easy to choose a puzzle appropriate for a persons abilities.Dice GamesDice games often have a central component of luck, but they are good for helping people with dementia practice numerical and calculation skills. Brain-stimulating dice games include backgammon, kismet, liars dice, shut the box and Yahtzee.Card GamesCard games, as mentioned above, can boost skills like reasoning, problem solving, memory, and concentration. Since these skills are often in decline in people with dementia, they can be extremely beneficial. Matching games like go fish, trick-taking games like bridge, and even solitaire variations can be good for people with dementia.Board GamesBoard games use a premade board with game pieces and often elements like cards and dice. One recent study found that a higher frequency of playing board games between ages 70 and 79 resulted in less cognitive decline. Good board games to try include Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Ticket to Ride, Cranium and chess.Video GamesWhether traditional desktop games, game systems like Wii and Switch, or cell phone and tablet games, research supports the theory that these games can enhance cognitive function in older adults, improving visual recognition, visual memory and attention. Tetris, Candy Crush Saga, Animal Crossing, Wii Sports, and mobile or app versions of classic word games, puzzles and board games can all be beneficial.BrightStar Careoffers around-the-clock in-home senior careAt BrightStar Care, we take a unique approach to caring for older adults by pairing our unmatched clinical expertise with key education resources to help and empower families. BrightStar Care helps families meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of an older relative by providing excellence in home health care.

Local Services By This Author

The Pineapple House at Sapphire Lakes

Memory Care 7901 Radio Rd., Naples, Florida, 34104

At The Pineapple House at Sapphire Lakes, we balance state-of-the-art luxury with warmth, convenience, and comfort. Located in beautiful Naples, FL, we offer premier Assisted Living and Memory Care services designed to meet the unique needs of older adults. Our residents enjoy a resort-style setting with first-class amenities, ensuring they feel safe, happy, and truly at home.Our community has been recognized for excellence, earning accolades such as the Best Memory Care community by U.S. News & World Report in 2023. This recognition is a testament to the high ratings and positive feedback from residents and their families.With beautifully designed spaces, a variety of lifestyle options, and a range of events and activities, The Pineapple House at Sapphire Lakes provides a vibrant and supportive environment. Our dedicated team members are committed to delivering exceptional care and service, making every day bright and fulfilling for our residents.Explore our community, learn about our services, and discover why The Pineapple House at Sapphire Lakes is a place where luxury meets comfort, and every resident is valued and celebrated.

The Pineapple House at Sapphire Lakes

Assisted Living 7901 Radio Rd., Naples, Florida, 34104

At The Pineapple House at Sapphire Lakes, we balance state-of-the-art luxury with warmth, convenience, and comfort. Located in beautiful Naples, FL, we offer premier Assisted Living and Memory Care services designed to meet the unique needs of older adults. Our residents enjoy a resort-style setting with first-class amenities, ensuring they feel safe, happy, and truly at home.Our community has been recognized for excellence, earning accolades such as the Best Memory Care community by U.S. News & World Report in 2023. This recognition is a testament to the high ratings and positive feedback from residents and their families.With beautifully designed spaces, a variety of lifestyle options, and a range of events and activities, The Pineapple House at Sapphire Lakes provides a vibrant and supportive environment. Our dedicated team members are committed to delivering exceptional care and service, making every day bright and fulfilling for our residents.Explore our community, learn about our services, and discover why The Pineapple House at Sapphire Lakes is a place where luxury meets comfort, and every resident is valued and celebrated.