RISK of Alzheimer’s disease can be reduced by maintaining a low-sodium plant-based diet, according to a dietitian who cited the US National Institute on Aging.   

“Let us be mindful of our diets,” said Faith Joice M. Matira, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “Balanced nutrition is part of a smart treatment program for many illnesses.”  

Controlling blood pressure, one of the risk factors of Alzheimer’s, can be achieved through a combination of the Mediterranean diet, a mostly plant-based eating plan, and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan that limits sodium.  

The combined Mediterranean and DASH diet (called MIND or Mediterranean–DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) recommends at least six servings of green, leafy vegetables per week and at least one serving of other vegetables a day. It also recommends at least three servings per day of whole grains, and three and five servings per week of beans and nuts, respectively.  

Limiting the consumption of red meat and dairy — which both have homocysteine (the amino acid linked to heart disease, stroke, and dementia) — can also help stave off the disease, said Ms. Matira in a Nov. 4 webinar organized by the Adventist Medical Center Manila.  

Bananas, potatoes, and green leafy vegetables like moringa contain vitamins B6, B9 (folate), and B12, which can break down homocysteine to generate other chemicals the body needs, she added.  

Ms. Matira offered five additional strategies for reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease:    

  • Kick off your diet with folate and fiber — consuming whole grains enhances brain function;  
  • Include a major mineral — minerals like calcium helps the brain and nerve cells work together;  
  • Feast on a rainbow — fill meals with colorful fruits and vegetables for memory-boosting antioxidants;  
  • Keep your body fit — exercise supplies the brain with fresh oxygen essential to a healthy mind; and  
  • Get out and about — socializing keeps you active, one of the secrets to fending off Alzheimer’s.  

Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, irreversible, and the most common type of dementia, which is a loss of cognitive functioning to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily activities. Risk factors include aging, genetics, and lifestyle causes. Individuals affected by the disease will present first with mild memory loss, and eventually have trouble doing routine tasks such as cooking a meal, driving a car, or paying bills.  

In the Philippines, approximately 2,010 people died from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia in 2020, according to the National Nutrition Council.  

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, said Ms. Matira, and lifestyle choices can keep it at bay. — Patricia B. Mirasol   


Sidebar | Alzheimer’s lookalikes  

Many treatable conditions have symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease. These include:   

  • Heart disease  
  • Depression  
  • Poor nutrition  
  • Side effects of medication  
  • High fever  
  • Stroke  
  • Loneliness or boredom  
  • Alcohol abuse  
  • Head injuries  
  • Thyroid problems  

According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease may be diagnosed by asking family members about the patient’s behavioral changes; conducting tests of memory, attention, and problem solving; carrying out standard medical tests, such as a urinalysis, to identify other possible sources of the problem; and performing brain scans, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT), to rule out any other causes of the symptoms.