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6 Foods That Increase Dementia Risk

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There’s a large variety of healthy foods seniors should add to their daily diet to maintain optimal health. However, there are also foods they should consider avoiding. The effects certain foods have on the body are thought to increase the risk of developing dementia. Here are a few items seniors should be careful about consuming.

1. Beer

Beer is processed using nitrates, which belong to a group of substances known as nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are known to damage cellular DNA, causing delicate neuron damage and dementia onset. 

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2. Red Meat

Red meat is commonly favored for its rich protein content. However, red meat also has high iron levels. While iron is necessary to prevent anemia, too much of the mineral has the potential for leading to cellular damage from free radical production. Iron tends to accumulate in the gray matter of the brain and hastens the cellular aging process.

3. Processed Meats

Bacon, ham, hot dogs, luncheon meat, and sausages are all processed meats. They are typically high in fat, salt, and nitrosamines (see the discussion of beer above). Diets that include high levels of fat lead to high LDL cholesterol levels, which clog blood vessels and impede nutrient-rich blood flow to the brain. Many older adults are sensitive to salt, which leads to fluid retention and high blood pressure. The physiological effects also interfere with normal cardiovascular and cognitive function. 

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4. Processed Cheeses

American, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese all have high contents of an amino acid known as methionine. In the body, the amino acid transforms into compounds known as homocysteines, which make the blood more acidic and lead to cell damage. Processed cheeses are also notoriously high in salt content, leading to hypertension and impeded blood flow. The fat content of the cheeses also contributes to plaque formation.

5. Complex Carbohydrates

Baked goods, white rice, sugar, and pasta are examples of complex carbohydrates. When metabolized, they dramatically increase blood sugar levels, which causes inflammation. The pancreas must also compensate by causing insulin to quickly rise. Abnormally high levels of insulin also negatively affect brain cells, which may lead to insulin resistance. If neurons don’t allow insulin and glucose to enter the brain, cells starve and die. Baked goods and similar processed foods are also high in fat and sugar, which harm the cardiovascular system by encouraging plaque formation and inflammation.

6. Butter and Margarine

Butter and margarine are commonly used in food preparation or as spreads. However, they contain high levels of saturated or trans fats that lead to increased levels of LDL cholesterol. High cholesterol interferes with blood circulation through the development of plaques in blood vessels. The brain is then deprived of oxygen and nutrients. The fats have also been implicated in encouraging increased beta-amyloid proteins in the brain. An abundance of the sticky proteins clump together, which interferes with the normal network of neuron communication along with blood flow.

Proper nutrition is important for everyone, and especially so for seniors. Some foods are more likely to lead to unhealthy conditions, including dementia, so it’s best for seniors to manage their diets carefully and avoid certain items as much as possible. If your loved one has difficulty planning and preparing healthy meals, help is just a phone call away. In Orlando, home care providers can benefit aging adults in a variety of ways. From cooking nutritious meals to offering timely medication reminders, the dedicated caregivers at Home Care Assistance are available to help your elderly loved one 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call Home Care Assistance at (407) 604-0506 to learn more about our flexible and customizable senior care plans.

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