In the world of senior care, cognitive decline is always a concern. Whether you're a senior yourself, a caregiver for an elderly family member, or a professional care provider, chances are that you worry about age-related cognitive difficulties. According to one recent study, a popular diet might prove a key tool in fighting cognitive decline in the elderly. After studying 967 seniors over the span of three years, researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland have linked the Mediterranean diet with the prevention of cognitive decline in elderly individuals.
Diet Lowers Brain Volume Loss
In their study, researchers studied the dietary habits and brain volume of nearly a thousand seniors without dementia between the ages of 73 and 76. As the start of the study, participants were asked to answer a questionnaire about their dietary habits. Participants then had an MRI scan to measure overall brain volume, grey matter volume, and the thickness of their cortex. Three years later, participants went through a second MRI. Researchers then measured the results of the second MRI against the results of the first.
What the researchers found was that the average participant lost a full 1% of their brain's volume over the course of the study. But study participants who ate a Mediterranean diet lost only 0.5% of their brain volume, half of what other participants did. Even after adjusting for other factors, the study's results suggested that a Mediterranean diet was an effective tool in slowing age-related brain volume loss.
Mediterranean Diet Breakdown
If you're concerned about cognitive decline in an elderly loved one, switching your loved one to a Mediterranean diet could be a smart move. The Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, such as Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Turkey, and Lebanon. The diet is high in plant-based foods and healthy fats, while limiting intake of sugary foods and damaging trans fats.
A breakdown of the diet emphasizes:
- High amounts of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains
- Moderate amounts of dairy, fish, and seafood
- Low amounts of red meat and sugary foods
- Olive oil used instead of butter whenever possible
- Herbs and spices used instead of salt for flavoring meals
Slowing down the rate of cognitive decline isn't the only advantage of a Mediterranean diet. In fact, the Mediterranean diet might have an even bigger impact on seniors' cardiovascular health than their cognitive abilities. According to the Mayo Clinic, the Mediterranean diet has been linked to better overall cardiovascular health, lower rates of heart disease, and a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality. Beyond cardiovascular benefits, the diet also limits your risk of certain cancers, as well as certain cognitive disorders such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. With all of these health benefits, it should come as no surprise that the Mediterranean diet has also been linked to a lower overall risk of mortality.
If you're worried about a loved one's risk of cognitive decline, the Mediterranean diet can be an effective part of your care strategy. Rethink your shopping list, look online for healthy recipes that follow Mediterranean diet guidelines, and encourage healthy eating both inside and outside the home.
Visiting Angels senior care providers can help you harness the power of the Mediterranean diet and fight cognitive decline. Our caregivers offer shopping, meal planning, and meal preparation assistance to help clients eat healthier at home. Contact your local office today to get started with a free, in-home care assessment.