Both common sense and awareness about our aging brains are critically important for staying healthy as we get older. And as many of us already know, diet can play a key role in abating dementia and helping people to feel as mentally sharp as possible. But there is one area, in particular, that warrants some deeper consideration: the anemia-dementia link.
Has your loved one had their iron levels tested recently? If not, they should.
Compelling Evidence that Anemia Can Lead to Dementia
Released this year, an 11-year-long study, conducted by Kristine Yaffe of the University of California, San Francisco, on 2,552 participants aged 70-79, resulted in an eye-opening discovery that those who were anemic ran a 40% higher risk of developing dementia than those without anemia.
Yaffe concluded in her abstract that “among older adults, anemia is associated with an increased risk of developing dementia.”
Considering that anemia deprives a person of the much-needed oxygen-rich blood to the brain, it makes a lot of sense that a lack of oxygen — even in small doses — could have a big impact on brain health over time. As Rachel Whitmer, senior scientist at Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland said, “if this is happening in a chronic state, it could be that you’re having this small hit to the brain over time, which can set you up to be more susceptible” to dementia.
How Can You Prevent Anemia?
Caregivers should know that both doctors, Yaffe and Whitmer, emphasize strongly that doctors must routinely test and treat older adults for anemia for both heart and brain health.
The good news is that because anemia is often caused by iron deficiencies either from a poor diet or the side effect of medications, the problem can be quite treatable for many people simply by making easy diet changes and taking inexpensive supplements. Some experts say those with anemia should load up on steak or spinach to get the iron their bodies require.
While these new studies that point to the strong possibility of an anemia-dementia link, in the interim, moderate, preventative measures are always the best plan as is adopting a healthy Mediterranean diet.
Prevent Dementia With Common Sense Eating (And Chocolate!)
Alzheimer’s caregivers can do a lot to ensure their loved ones get the right foods to help them live the healthiest, most balanced lives possible. Steak and spinach, in healthy moderation, are ideal sources of iron.
Caregivers should also make sure their loved ones get plenty of memory boosting ‘super foods’ like veggies, especially leafy greens, as well as Omega-3 rich foods like salmon and other cold-water fish or beans and flax seeds. Anti-oxidant rich foods like blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other dark-skinned fruits. Extra virgin olive oil contains oleocanthal which helps break down the amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Cold-pressed virgin coconut oil boosts ketones, thyroid function and is a natural antibiotic.
And, last, but certainly not least: go ahead and enjoy that delicious chocolate. Studies show that both the caffeine and the antioxidants may help ward off age-related memory impairment.
When it comes to preventing anemia and keeping your loved one healthy, are you talking to their doctor and making sure they’re tested for anemia? What else can you do to help them stay well?