Posts tagged ‘dementia’

August 20, 2019

Can Diet Help Keep You From Losing Your Mind?

Can diet help keep you from losing your mind? This is the question I came home asking this week. For the third time in the past 5 weeks, I spent the weekend visiting my mother’s cousin and cleaning out her house. In another 5 weeks, we’ll celebrate her 99th birthday. This year’s celebration will be vastly different from last year’s or the year before. Last year, she hosted 20 friends and relatives in the sunroom of her long-term care facility. She knew everyone’s name and exhibited none of the anxiety that had begun to occasionally plague her.
eating
This year, I’m not even inviting family to join us. In the past two or three months, I have observed a significant cognitive decline. Yesterday, we spent an hour getting a glass of juice, 5 bites of egg, three bites of toast, and a few sips of hot chocolate down her. There was no conversation. She simply didn’t have the language.

There were some repetitive interjections of, “Help me, help me, help me,” followed by “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” These incidents have become common and often loud. Trying to find a medication that will quell her anxiety without making her sleep constantly is not a simple task. But we have to do something or she will not be able to stay where she is. I don’t know any other long-term care facility that smells like hot buttered rolls when you walk in, so having to move would be a shame.

It’s hard to know who will get dementia or what kind. Throughout her eighties, this particular cousin had outstanding recall of the answers in all Trivial Pursuit categories and maintained her extensive vocabulary. Her mother died with a clear mind at age 95. If I had been picking someone who would develop dementia, it wouldn’t have been her.

Many of you know how hard it is to watch a loved one sink into anxiety and incapacity. How sad it feels when they no longer know our names then eventually look at us with no glimmer of recognition. The coinciding physical decline is no easier to see. And I can’t even get my mind around what this must be like to experience.

Of course, we all want to avoid dementia. Some sources advise eating brain-healthy foods or following the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet to help stave it off. This advice seems to be based on short-term studies of brain sharpness and has been repeated on sites like mayoclinic.org and webmd.com.

On the surface, it sounds good, but it seems this will not be the final word. A European study of 8225 participants from 1991-2004 found diet quality assessed during midlife was not significantly associated with subsequent risk for dementia. There is an ongoing NIH study examining the effects of MIND diet on cognitive decline in seniors 65-84 without cognitive impairment who are overweight and have suboptimal diets. This study will end in 2021.

In the meantime, we’ll all have choices to make at many, many meals. Fresh, fresh, fresh without pesticides whenever possible is best! Plant-based processed foods are not as healthy as plain old vegetables and fruits. If you want to use the MIND diet as a guideline, choose green leafy vegetables at least 6 times per week plus other vegetables at least once per day. Make berries part of your meals twice a week. Eat fish at least once and poultry at least twice while limiting red meat to four times a week. Consume nuts at least five times a week. Include complex carbohydrates from whole grains. Use olive oil for cooking and limit butter and margarine to less than a tablespoon per day. Eat less than a serving of cheese and less than five pastries or sweets per week. Avoid fried and fast food and limit alcohol to one drink in a day. You can also download a MIND diet app.

If you’re already following a Mediterranean diet or the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, there may be no need to alter what you’re doing. Some neuroscientists would encourage you to include chocolate, coffee, or tea and remind you to drink plenty of water.

It seems like there’s always conflicting information when it comes to the effects of specific dietary recommendations. When it comes to living a healthy life, I like to follow the word BALANCE…

B e sure to include variety
A void foods and chemicals to which you have an adverse reaction*
L imit prepackaged and processed food
A void fast food
N urture yourself with sleep, stillness, and vigorous activity
C reate a kind, inspiring lifestyle
E njoy your life

Will BALANCE help keep me from losing my mind? It remains to be seen, but it makes me feel good now and now is the only moment we know we have.


*allergy, sensitivity, autoimmune or inflammatory response

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30860560

https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/clinical-trials/mind-diet-prevent-cognitive-decline

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/15-simple-diet-tweaks-cut-alzheimers-risk/art-20342112

https://www.webmd.com/alzheimers/ss/slideshow-dementia-foods

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.rbjmobileapp.mind&hl=en_US

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/lunch-dinner-snack-foods-support-healthy-lifestyle/
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August 5, 2019

Should Soy Stay or Should it Go?

Should soy stay or should it go? When my children were young, we discovered they were allergic to cow’s milk. I switched them to soy. Now, when I see headlines describing the dangers of soy, I wonder whether I did them a great disservice.

Soy is present in many prepared foods. It’s eagerly embraced by some adopters of a plant-based diet because it is filled with high-quality protein and nutrients including B vitamins, fiber, potassium, and magnesium. Soy protein contains all nine essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own making it a “complete” protein. These facts make soy sound like a great food.
soy
But, like eggs, soy has its detractors. Some animal studies have shown that high dosages of isoflavone or isolated soy protein extracts tend to stimulate breast cancer growth. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens that function similarly to human estrogen (a hormone) but with weaker effects. Isoflavones may also alter the behavior of estrogen receptors thereby affecting hormone balance.

Hormone balance affects mood, libido, weight, sleep quality, and energy levels. Life is both healthier and more pleasant when we maintain the proper balance. Any alteration of hormone balance through intentional disruption brings risks whether it’s hormone-based birth control, hormone replacement therapy, or dietary estrogens.

A study of 3700 Japanese-American men in Hawaii who consumed large amounts of tofu during middle-age showed a significant association with greater cognitive impairment and brain atrophy in late life compared with men with the lowest tofu intakes. On the flip side, a study of Asian women showed that soy foods sometimes reduced the risk of breast cancer.

In fact, there are numerous soy studies with conflicting results. At a glance, it’s hard to determine whether soy contributes to or reduces the risk of breast cancer. The relationship with dementia is not certain either.

Soy foods are not the only foods that contain phytoestrogens or dietary estrogens. Flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, apples, cranberries, grapes, pomegranates, strawberries, carrots, lentils, yams, mung beans, sprouts, barley, oats, wheat germ, coffee, bourbon, beer, red wine, and olive oil all contain phytoestrogens. We don’t think of most of those as harmful, but all phytoestrogens are not created equal or used by the body in the same way.

More than likely, there are many factors that determine whether soy will detrimentally affect you–ethnicity, hormone levels, type of soy, age and frequency of ingestion, interaction with medications, etc. With no definitive way to know whether phytoestrogens put you at risk, it is probably best to consume soy in moderation.

If you choose packaged foods, be sure to read the labels. You’ll often find soy in unexpected places. If you are eating a plant-based diet, you may want to limit tofu. And with all of the non-dairy milk options, there’s really no reason to rely on soy.

When you do eat soy, less processing is always better. I love edamame. Every few months I’ll have some for dinner two or three times in a week. Then I don’t think about it again for months.

With no consistent, definitive science to rely on at this time, consuming soy has to be a matter of choice. For now I’m choosing stay, but in deliberate moderation. Only time will tell whether my choices will harm my children or me. In the meantime, I’ll probably keep asking: Should soy stay or should it go?

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1345/aph.10257

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01635581.2017.1250924

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2000.10718923

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2781234/

The following is an extensive review of soy research. Please be aware that it was funded by The European Soy and Plant-based Foods Manufacturers Association, and the author is the executive director of the Soy Nutrition Institute, an organization funded by the United Soybean Board and its soy industry members.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5188409/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/?s=soy

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/page/3/?s=soy
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June 18, 2019

Five Ways to Cope When Life Feels Like it’s Always About Someone Else

Here are five ways to cope when life feels like it’s always about someone else. If you are an attentive, involved caregiver you know how difficult it can be to prioritize yourself. There’s often no time and energy remaining once you’ve taken care of feeding, bathing, dressing, medications, recreation, transportation and cleaning required to provide for an ill or disabled relative. On top of that, you may be responsible for paying bills and taking care of other children. You may also have a job.

I feel overwhelmed just typing that list. And I feel tired this morning in spite of 9 hours of sleep. Yesterday, I kept my medically fragile granddaughter who had been throwing up everything, including meds, for two days. It is a draining experience. And that’s the reason I offered to keep her. Her parents and brother needed a break!
sleep
For those of you who have never been a caregiver, it’s easy to assume that being organized, prepared, and energetic will be sufficient to handle the job without undue strain. It helps. Having sufficient financial resources along with family and social support lessen the impact. But until you’ve done the job, there’s no way to understand the toll it can take.

Data say a large majority of caregivers report adverse effects to daily routines of sleep, eating, and exercise. They also report a significant negative impact on social and recreational life. A majority also report often neglecting their own health during caregiving. Even if you view caregiving as rewarding, this eventually affects your quality of life.

I recently ran into a nurse who works in the hospital unit my granddaughter frequents. She told me how much she LOVES my family. She’s so impressed that my son & daughter-in-law still have jobs and lives. She said that most parents with similar children quit their jobs.

Of course that’s an anecdotal assessment, but it’s telling. At a certain level, caregiving can require you to limit your hours, change the level of job you hold, or stop working altogether. That not only affects income, it can lessen your social connections.

Nurture Supportive Friendships

When I look back at the years I owned my previous business, I see lots of inclusion in birthday drinks, holiday parties, family weddings, and funeral visitations. I also see how much effort I put into maintaining the connections that led to that inclusion. Once I had less time to “market” myself, many of those invitations ceased.

The following year when circumstances demanded I begin caregiving, an additional level of friends fell away. Now, I have a core group of friends who understand that I must often say no. They don’t take it personally. They endure my initial nonstop talking the days I haven’t spoken to anyone besides children in weeks. They are patient when nothing seems funny to me.

I am grateful for these friends. I’ve known most of them for more than 15 years. Some I’ve known for 30. If I had not already had an established set of friends, it would have taken a great deal of deliberate effort to cultivate them once caregiving began.

Allow Yourself to Receive

One of the best ways to cope when all of the focus in your household is on someone else, is to allow yourself to receive. Of course, that requires someone to give. It is often friends who are willing to lend a hand with cooking, shopping, or other errand running. Don’t hesitate to ask or to say yes when they offer.

If offers of help aren’t sincere, you’ll learn that quickly. You’ll also learn that many are. I recently had a friend research the availability of Quick Dams online while I wet vacuumed water from my flooding office building. That was one less task I had to do that night.

Hire a Service

When friends run shorter than finances, a service can help with care. After my mother suffered a stroke and no longer met the criteria for rehab, my stepfather took her home. He had been very impatient with the staff at rehab and frequently let them (and us) know that believed he could do a better job of caring for her, keeping her bed clean, and getting her to eat than they had.

My sister and I arrived at the end of her first week home. One look and it was clear that NewDaddy could not handle another day without assistance. He had grossly underestimated the care required to deal with her impairment.My sister and I lived hours away, so I hired a service that would do household chores, dispense meds, and eventually provide hospice care.

The emotional drain of caregiving can be exhausting. The roller coaster of hospitalization, code blue, ventilator, return to baseline, stable period, minor illness, rapid decline, and hospitalization in the medically fragile is traumatic for both patient and family. It becomes difficult to relax and renew between medical events because the natural reflex is to remain braced for the next escalation. Often the stable period does not last long enough to process through the most recent past trauma making the effects cumulative.
eat
Make Time for Grieving

With dementia, stroke, traumatic brain injury, down syndrome or cerebral palsy comes a sense of loss that must be grieved. Grief requires stillness which requires time away from tasks including those of self-care like cooking. Unfortunately, church groups, civic clubs, book clubs, and informal groups of friends who happily provide meals and household support when someone dies do not recognize the prolonged grief of slow decline with the same kind of assistance.

Healthy caregivers may set good boundaries, make sure to add an hour of sleep or a nap, eat well, and continue to work out and still end up hitting the wall. It happened to me in 2018 and it came as a shock. I have always been able to work long and hard and still find the energy to play. I had no idea how much energy it takes process grief and trauma.

When you begin to notice life is never about you, it may feel selfish to sleep an additional two hours per night. It can also make you feel old, unfun, and unattractive. But catching up may not be a matter of sleeping-in one weekend. It can take months of added sleep to get ahead when you’re a caregiver.

Change What You Can

I now begin to say no much sooner–before I get too tired. I pay more attention to subtle body signals. And I work less. Since I am my own boss, my work schedule is something I can change.

While maintaining connections is important, I no longer choose to give my time to people who make things more difficult. I feel much less distress over the relationship shifts this causes than I do accommodating friends and relatives who regularly create interactions that are convoluted, vague, chaotic, argumentative, unnecessarily complicated, manipulative, inconsiderate or filled with turmoil. Any offer of “help” from these parties is not helpful and therefore declined. Ditto for those who have proven repeatedly unreliable.

Finding the time, resources, and energy to plan an actual vacation has been difficult the past couple of years. I’ve made plenty of trips, but they haven’t exactly included recreation and relaxation. I can reframe how I view days off and vacations and I can certainly give up feeling bad about relaxing when my to-do list remains long.

The Sum Total is Self-Kindness

Big change begins with small changes. When you deliberately practice self-kindness it eventually becomes habit. And practicing self-kindness is really the best way I can think of to cope with any difficulty in life!

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791523/?ncid=edlinkushpmg00000313

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5453737/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5453737/table/TAB2/?report=objectonly

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924075/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/least-feel-like-party-need-one/

http://www.cooking2thrive.com/blog/id-tell-you-but-then-id-have-to/

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