Diet and Exercise, Treating Alzheimer's Disease
Many of the benefits of diet and exercise are the same for everybody whether or not they have Alzheimer’s disease.
Initially there is no reason why a person with Alzheimer’s shouldn’t enjoy regular exercise. This might include walking, dancing, cycling or gentle swimming. Even gardening can be a great form of exercise. And mild stretches, which can be done almost anywhere, are excellent for maintaining suppleness.
Alzheimer's and Exercise
Anything that keeps the heart pumping at optimum levels and the body in good shape can only be a benefit. Exercise improves sleep, increases energy, helps co-ordination and has an uplifting effect.
Exercise should be done with the support of a doctor and as the disease progresses to an advanced stage, with a carer (who may also benefit from a change of scene and activity). Obviously as the patient’s condition deteriorates their ability to exercise may be severely limited. But if they can undertake some type of exercise for as long as possible they’ll definitely feel the benefits both in physical and mental terms.
Alzheimer's and Diet
A healthy diet is obviously important for everyone but as Alzheimer’s progresses this can become very difficult and stressful as there will come a time when a sufferer forgets to eat, forgets that they have already eaten and basically forgets how to eat. At this point it will be the carer who takes over the role of ensuring that the person gets a good balance of the right food.
Sometimes a patient’s medication can put them off their food. Or because of the degenerative nature of the illness they may not be physically able to use a knife and fork or even swallow. Despite all these hurdles the carer must try to ensure that they have a balanced diet full of fruit, vegetables, dairy products and proteins. This will help to keep the sufferer’s body as healthy as possible at a time when their brain function is deteriorating.
Oily fish is particularly good as it’s rich in Omega 3 oils which are known to help concentration and maintain a healthy heart and nervous system.
It’s a good idea to prepare finger food (with soft, healthy fillings such as egg or tuna) as the illness progresses. These are easier for the sufferer to handle and chew, giving them some control and independence over what they are doing. It also makes life easier for sufferers who get restless and agitated if they have to sit at a table for any length of time to eat a meal.
Providing healthy snacks such as fruit or raw vegetables is ideal if a person has a tendency to overeat because they have forgotten they’ve already had a meal.
People with dementia don’t realise that they may be thirsty. It’s important that fluid levels are kept up to avoid dehydration (which can make the mind even more sluggish) and constipation. For the latter, the person’s diet should also contain healthy amounts of fibre such as wholemeal bread or wholegrain cereals.
Avoiding alcohol is important as not only does it dehydrate but it can also cause a worsening of the confusion and memory loss symptoms.