World Alzheimer's Day: eating to stay well

September 21st is World Alzheimer’s Day and its a perfect opportunity to remind readers about the power of good food choices to support the health or people already living with a dementia (or Alzheimer’s) diagnosis.

The 2014 report on Nutrition and Dementia by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) stated that close to half of those diagnosed with dementia had lost weight in the previous year, and that the consequences of that included increased frailty, falls and death. Weight loss is common in those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, but that doesn’t mean its inevitable.

Unfortunately, in clinical practice I too often see people who have suffered physical decline due to weight loss and poor nutrition which has resulted in their need for high level care when their cognition has not progressed to the stage that they require that care - those people could be still living in their own homes, had that not occurred.

There is a lot that can be done to minimise the health impacts of weight loss, to slow it down and even to reverse it.

It all comes down to understanding that dementia can mess up brain connections that alert us to eat when we feel hungry, that allow us to eat enough to get the nutrients we need, that help us recognise food and carry out the complex processes needed to source, prepare and eat it. Any or all of those drastically impact the amount someone with dementia ends up eating. Its up to those of us who care about a relative of friend living with dementia to think outside the box and come up with strategies to help get round those messed up connections.

I’ve written about this in my book Eat To Cheat Dementia and urge anyone who lives with dementia themselves or who cares about someone who does, to read it. I’ve packed it with information, but also sensible, practical strategies and advice to help people enjoy the best possible health despite their diagnosis.

Ngaire Hobbins