Food and Exercise as Medicine Against Dementia

Drilling Down on Dementia Green Hill Senior Living

In December 2016 President Barack Obama signed in to law the 21st Century Cures Act which set aside $3 billion over ten years to research brain diseases. Part of that fund is focused on Alzheimer’s research. Reporter Melissa Bailey noted in Kaiser Health News 1/30/17, that to date little progress has been made in finding a pharmaceutical cure for Alzheimer’s, although there have been five drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration Administration that alleviate or slow some symptoms like memory loss and confusion. “New Alzheimer’s therapies have won federal approval since 2003, and Alzheimer’s clinical trials have had a 99 percent failure rate.”

That is bleak news for those suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as their caregivers and families. While we wait for a pharmaceutical breakthrough, our focus remains on the proactive steps we can take to postpone and/or alleviate symptoms. Studies show that people who have healthy diets and exercise seem to have onset of dementia symptoms later in life than those who are sedentary and have poor diets.

A Healthy Lifestyle for Alzheimer’s Prevention

In Exercise Interventions for Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: The Seattle Protocols by Linda Teri, PhD, Rebecca G. Logsdon, Ph.D., and  Susan M. McCurry, Ph.D., it is stated that “There is a growing body of evidence from epidemiological studies that a history of exercise or physical activity may delay onset and progression of dementia in older adults.” Exercise Interventions for Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: The Seattle Protocols Linda Teri, PhD, Rebecca G. Logsdon, Ph.D., and  Susan M. McCurry, Ph.D.

Another study was conducted by neuroscientist Art Karamer, director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois, in How Exercise And Other Activities Beat Back Dementia and was discussed by Patti Neighmond on NPR Morning Edition. , from NPR Morning Edition, by Patti Neighmond, it was explained that neuroscientist Art Karamer, director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois did a study where he Karamer scanned the brains of 120 older adults before and after engaging in a program of “moderate aerobic exercise, just 45 minutes, three days a week, mostly walking. After a year, the MRI scans showed that for the aerobic group, the volume of their brains actually increased.” The article also explained that, “There’s some evidence suggesting that omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, and antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, found in vegetables, may help nourish the brain.”

Preventing Dementia and Alzheimer’s with Brain-Healthy Foods

Which brings us back to the old adage “you are what you eat.” Food is not only fuel for the body but it can be medicine as well, and an important tool in Alzheimer’s prevention. It is thought thatAccording to the Alzheimer’s Association, “high levels of antioxidants from fruits and vegetables may help to protect against damage to brain cells associated with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as increasing the levels of proteins in the brain that protect brain cells from this damage.”

Choosing a Mediterranean diet of legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, dairy, healthy fats, and little to no red meat or sugar, is a proactive way to address ones’ concerns about getting, or responding to, early onset dementia. The US National Library of Medicines National Institutes of Health states in Mediterranean Diet and Dementia of the Alzheimer Type 7/13, “Particular attention has recently been devoted to the Mediterranean diet which is rich in the antioxidants Vitamins C and E, polyunsaturated fatty acids and polyphenolic compounds. Several in vitro, animal and population-based studies reported a positive effect between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and AD prevention, although contrasting views remain.”

An article in the Star Ledger by Tony Dearing noted there is a movement coming to New Jersey spearheaded by Dr. Laura Micek-Galinat called Culinary Medicine. Micek-Galinat is one of the first ten physicians in the country to be certified in this new specialty. “Culinary medicine is a form of integrated health care designed to teach doctors about nutrition and cooking so they, in turn, can teach their patients.” Dearing quotes Dr. Timothy Harlan, a ‘chef-turned-physician’, who is the director of the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine at Tulane University. “We take the Mediterranean diet that research has shown to be so effective and we translate that to the American kitchen…..”

“If you have someone with a history of Alzheimer’s or dementia there are studies that show you we reduce our risk of Alzheimer’s by 25 percent to 50 percent by following the Mediterranean diet,” Micek-Galinat explains. Plus, when looking at the rate of dementia diagnosis worldwide on the website, it’s revealed that in the countries where less red meat is eaten, the rates of death by dementia are greatly reduced. It has always been clear that paying attention to the food we eat can have a positive effect on any number of health-related ailments. However, only recently the value of a Mediterranean diet on preventing dementia symptoms has been gaining attention.

Senior Wellness at Green Hill

At Green Hill, we have incorporated these studies into our dining programs by providing our residents with delicious meals and brain healthy foods rich in antioxidants, high in vitamins with whole grains, lean proteins and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Our sweet treats, as evidenced by the recent St. Patrick’s Day recipes posted on our website, include tasty low sugar alternatives to favorite desserts. We also ensure that our residents are physically active each day, offering amenities like exercise classes and wellness programs to stimulate body and mind.

Green Hill has planned our own culinary health program, presenting a series of seminars this coming spring and summer focused on healthy food choices, and meal preparation for seniors and their caregivers which will be open to the public. You may visit us at to find our healthy recipes designed by our Green Hill Chef’s and to learn more about our culinary program.

To schedule a personal tour of our beautiful senior living community, please contact us today.