Dementia can be a devastating condition for all involved, but a family in the United Kingdom has been given new hope after discovering the positive impacts diet can have on health.
For 82-year-old Sylvia Hatzer, her Alzheimer’s disease symptoms got so bad her son Mark had to put her in a hospital facility for her own safety. At one point, Sylvia couldn’t remember her own son and thought hospital staff were trying to kidnap her.
“We both went through a rough time following the initial diagnosis,” Mark said in a video posted by the Manchester Evening News. “Mum displayed the classic symptoms of Alzheimer’s, with all sorts of memory problems and cognitive problems. But we’ve both managed to turn things around thanks to our treating team and carers. But also because we’ve been experimenting with a new diet.”
Sylvia began a Mediterranean diet around a year ago, which her son claims has helped her regain her memory. In addition to increasing her intake of meats including fish and chicken, she’s been eating more nuts and including a variety of berries as part of her regular diet. She now eats more broccoli, spinach, seeds, kale, oats, sweet potatoes and even dark chocolate as part of her diet. It’s been such a success that the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom has shared some of Sylvia’s recipes on their website to inspire others living with the condition.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, a Mediterranean-style diet can reduce the risk of developing problems with memory and thinking, as well as developing certain forms of dementia. The diet is typically high in fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals, with less intake of oily fish, dairy, meat, sugar and saturated fat.
“High levels of antioxidants from the high intake of fruits and vegetables may help to protect against some of the 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,” the Alzheimer’s Society said on its website.
Mark added that mixed with regular memory tests, it’s been a recipe for success for his mother’s health.
“She’s very keen on jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles and maintaining a good social life as well. And gradually we’ve managed to turn things around,” he told the Manchester Evening Standard.
It took Sylvia several months before she began remembering things again, with Mark noting it wasn’t an overnight success story.
“We’ve gone through it and basically my mum’s back to her usual self now,” he said.
He added that in addition to not being as forgetful as normal, Sylvia can remember times, dates, places and important birthdays and anniversaries.
Sylvia’s success story isn’t the first to link a healthy lifestyle to improved cognitive health. Last month, Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, reported that active women dramatically reduce their chances of dementia than those who were moderately fit.
The research used an exercise test to measure cardiovascular fitness and found that even if extremely fit women did develop dementia, it occurred more than a decade later than those who were only moderately fit. Of those who participated in the study, women who developed dementia did so at about 90, rather than 79.
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