Dementia has Doubled in the past 26 years! How Do We Stop These Heartbreaking Numbers?

It is estimated that by 2050, 31 years from now there will be 100 million people and their loved ones living with this disease.  Many of you are living with it NOW. How many of us will go down that path without intervention now?

My father-in-law who passed away last April from dementia and leukemia.
My father-in-law who passed away last April from dementia and leukemia.

It is quite obvious that modern medicine has not made a dent in these numbers.  Standard medicine doctors admit the drugs they are prescribing do not often work at slowing down the disease, much less stopping or preventing it.   They don’t seem to get that ignoring nutrition, and giving out pills is not and has never been the answer to better health.

The research in this article published this month in The Lancet Neurology  states that these lost years are due to being overweight, sugar consumption, high blood sugar, sweetened drinks such as cokes and soft drinks, and smoking.  This is basically what you eat folks and how much you eat.  All of these factors in the research are lifestyle issues such as smoking and lack of exercise. Genetics is the least of it. Even if you have a gene weakness, what you do in your life can save you from these grim figures.  For every grim statistic, there is a loving family who is trying to deal with their loved one and the disease.

It is my deepest intent as a herbalist with much experience taking care of people with dementia (15 years), to help you prevent and reverse memory and dementia.  This blog is dedicated to that purpose.  It is the reason I took hours of classes the past months given by experts who see what needs to be done to bring down these tragic numbers and destroyed lives.  You must start with basics to do that. As a caregiver, I had no way to help the clients I took care of. You are given orders by the agency or the family on their care and you are fired if you don’t do it as instructed.  It was so painful to see patients who could be helped,but who were not not because of the system.  One was a couple, both with severe early dementia who had created stain glass windows for church buildings for 30 years which involved lead in their manufacture. I tried to get the agency to look at the issue of lead poisoning as a cause for their memory impairment. I was ignored.

It is a New Year and time to review our overall health and mental health to see what lifestyle changes we all  can do starting today to make a difference. 

We need to look at three main areas to start which is what you eat, the quality of the food you are eating, what drugs you may be taking, and the toxins in your environment.

Dementia develops over 20 to 30 years.  Most research studies only last one to 5 years.  So dementia needs to be addressed years in advance of the symptoms.  Even if you are in your later years, you can change the outcome.  In the classes I took during the last weeks of the year on dementia and memory, several doctors stated that they had worked with people in Stage 4 memory loss and reversed it.  These are doctors who are doing this but not your average standard medical doctor. These are men who have seen the trend and changed their way of treating the disease.

Dementia has Doubled in the past 26 years! How to Stop It.

You are what you eat or don’t eat. You are what you break down and absorb from the food you are eating!

The majority of the elderly and seniors don’t eat properly either because of  money issues or from not wanting to fix food just for themselves. After 60 years of cooking, they have had it.  It is also a factor that our ability to taste our food is impacted from age and medications. When we can’t taste our foods, it is no fun to eat them.

Depression may impact your desire to eat. There have been people who died alone with a full kitchen of food. They just were not eating it. 

Stomach issues and your gut may make it painful to eat.  Dentures, missing teeth, gum disease, and dentures may impact your ability to eat and digest food.

The majority of seniors and the elderly are not eating quality foods,  not eating properly, and so not absorbing the nutrients in the food.   These factors are affecting their memory in a negative way and may be the main cause for the problem. During a physical how many doctors talk to you about diet and your lifestyle? Very few because they don’t have time and often are in bad health themselves. Often their staff are in worse shape than the patients seeing the doctor.  Most doctors are not educated in nutrition, just surgery and drugs. They are great for operating on your heart, but not in the prevention of those issues that caused you to need the operation.

Most of us over 60 suffer from at least one or several vitamin deficiencies that are not helping our memory. In some cases, the symptoms of mental decline are in large part due to these deficiencies. 

According to Healthline, these are the vitamin deficiencies that are most prominent : 

Iron, iodine, Vitamin D, B12, calcium, Vitamin A, Magnesium, and most of the micro-nutrients such as folic acid.  Today we are going over iron this first blog.  Each blog in the future will address these vitamin deficiencies first.

The Quality of our food is the first issue on the deficiency problem.

The quality of our food today with a majority of it being saturated with GMO grains and pesticides is not what it was when you grew up.  The GMO grains do not contain the micro-nutrients that food should have. It is deficient and so are the animals who eat it including us.  The animals who are fed these GMO grains end up as our food, our milk, our eggs, and in our meals in every bite.  I took two three courses last year. One course was on GMO food and its health consequences, one on Alzheimer’s and prevention, and one on general health and today’s health challenges.  I was shocked at what I didn’t know and how much had changed the past few years.  We will go more into this in these blogs as we go along, since the quality of our food affects both our physical  health and mental health. 

Iron deficiency is the first important vitamin deficiency and common in the elderly especially women.

Iron is mostly found in red meat foods. Meat is expensive, harder to eat with dentures or lack of teeth, takes time to cook, and may not set well in the gut.  If your you or your loved one is on pureed food including meat, the taste is bad enough most people will simply not eat it. My father in law when put on liquid food, simply stopped eating. He didn’t want any part of life, where he could not eat real food that looked like food. The digestive function in those over 65 is an issue. It takes a lot of digestive enzymes to brake down the nutrients in meat and those digestive enzymes are often lacking in the older population. 

How Iron Deficiency affects your health? How do I know if I am iron deficient? How deficient do you have to be to experience symptoms?

Iron deficiency  may cause anemia, tiredness, weakness, weakened immune system and impaired brain function.   All the results of iron deficiency are negative for your mind to work well.

“Micronutrient deficiencies, especially those related to iodine and iron, are linked to different cognitive impairments, as well as to potential long-term behavioral changes. Among the cognitive impairments caused by iron deficiency, those referring to attention span, intelligence, and sensory perception functions are mainly cited, as well as those associated with emotions and behavior, often directly related to the presence of iron deficiency anemia. In addition, iron deficiency without anemia may cause cognitive disturbances.”

The problem with iron supplements is that they are hard on the stomach and cause constipation as well.  Here is a site that reviews supplements to read some input into the best iron supplements that cause less stomach distress,

Foods that are plant based that contain iron: 

Organic soy beans are one of the top plant based foods but 90% of soybeans grown over the world are GMO and bad for the gut and your health.  If you are going to go this route, eat organic only.  Pumpkin, sesame, hemp hearts, flaxseed, lentils, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, white lima beans, red kidney beans, and navy beans are some of the main iron rich foods.  Next come vegetables such mushrooms, leafy greens, such as  spinach , kale, swiss chard, collard and beet greens, olives, mulberries, moringa leaves, Amaranth, Spelt, Oats, and Quinoa . Prunes and prune juice are high is iron. Prunes will also help the constipation that often plagues the elderly due to many issues such as lack of fiber and constipation. Molasses and chocolate also contain this important nutrient.

How do you get these nutrients down someone who cannot chew or digest food because of stomach issues? 

You can make a vegetable smoothie or green drink.  Home made protein drinks that are low in sugar but high in protein. You can find many recipes that actually taste good. Make sure you are using organic vegetables and wash them well.  Give them the drink in small sips if that is all they can tolerate but frequently. Give them a treat such as applesauce or yogurt if they drink it.  I did this with my father-in-law every day.  If he ate the good food, he could have a cookie. He had swallowing problems and choked often. I had to teach him to cut up his food in small bites and eat slowly. It took weeks but he finally listened when he nearly choked to death.  When he finally started listening to me, his choking almost stopped completely. In the end, I cut up his food because he would forget. Liquids became a worsening issue. Giving them a straw also may be needed to solve the problem of choking.  You may have to thicken the drink as well.   In the end, they begin to lose their ability to swallow as part of the disease taking their life.  It was sad that I was not part of his father’s life twenty years before his death.  There is so much I could have done if I had been able to intervene in the early years, in the early stages of his path downward. We did not have any influence on him until the last three years, after alcohol, years of horrible eating, and disease had set in.  You must start early to stop this. He was 90 when he allowed us to help him…too late for his kidneys, his liver, and his mind. My help did extend his quality of life for those three years. He played golf until three months before he died at almost 94. 

Make sure you give them digestive enzymes in the drink or with capsules. 

Most older adults do not have enough digestive enzymes to break down their food, so this is extremely important to do this.  You are not just what you eat but what you absorb in nutrients from what you eat! If your gut is not working properly, all that good food ends up in the toilet with their important nutrients.  This is a major problem in the elderly that their gut cannot break down or absorb the nutrients in the foods they are eating. 

GERD (Acid Reflux Disease) Issues and Eating:

If your family member  has GERD make them sit up after eating for at least an hour or more.  Give them several hours between meals and before going to bed.  Don’t give them any dessert until an hour after the main meal.  Keep the portions small and pay attention to what foods seem to cause problems in choking or with stomach pain or GERD.

Yogurt will often stop GERD symptoms for many people.  The doctors took him off the GERD supplements because they were causing side effects that were really nasty.   He did not like yogurt but would ask me for it when he felt symptoms coming on.  He knew it worked for him.

What if they cannot eat because of the nausea of cancer treatments?

If medical marijuana is legal in your state, this is one step that will help with the nausea and allow them to eat without throwing it up.   This is one area where medical marijuana is extremely helpful.  If you are in pain, you don’t want to eat.  Medical marijuana will help with the pain and your ability to eat.

Ginger may help with nausea as well.  Herbs such as Slippery elm and Marshmallow ( a plant) can help soothe an irritated stomach and diarrhea.  These herbs help heal the gut and gut lining as well.  Aloe juice is another one very gentle and healing to the stomach and intestines.

I hope this information is useful and helps you live happier. Next week we will continue with vitamin deficiencies and memory issues.

All for today, Kate Freer