In episode three of Your Turn To Care, Sonia Alvarez shared her struggles caring for her mother, who has Alzheimer's, and her difficult decision to place her in an assisted living facility. A heart wrenching act that went against her Latino family traditions but one that turned out to be a positive step in providing the best care for her mom and relief for herself. As the Latino elderly population grows rapidly over the next 30-40 years an increasing number of Latinos will find themselves in this same predicament, with millions caring for family members with this devastating disease.
A 2010 study on Alzheimer's found that Latinos are about 1.5 more times more likely to develop Alzheimer's than non-Latino whites. It's estimated that the number of sufferers will grow from 200,000 (2010) to over 1.3 million in 2050. Latinos face a greater risk of the disease because like the general population they are living longer and growing in numbers. Furthermore the higher rates of vascular disease (diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol) in the Latino community seems to promote a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's and other dementia. A direct link between diabetes and Alzheimer's has not been absolutely established but scientist know that excess blood sugar or insulin can harm the brain in several ways.
Family history and genetics certainly play a role in developing both diabetes and Alzheimer's but so do environmental factors such as nutrition/diet and exercise. Establishing a healthy diet and exercise routine can help prevent the onset of diabetes and possibly Alzheimer's. Before launching into any new activities or changing your food intake, it's important to check with your doctor and ask their advice on developing and implementing a new health plan.
A BRAIN HEALTHY DIET
Increase intake of:
- Vegetables & fruits high in antioxidants
- Fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, tuna, trout and halibut)
- Nuts (almonds and pecans)
- Whole grains
- Foods high in saturated and trans fats
- Foods/drinks high in sugar
STAY PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
- Exercise for 20-30 minutes a day
- Tai Chi
STAY MENTALLY ACTIVE
- Read, write, do puzzles
- Play games
- Enroll in classes
- Attend or take part in plays
STAY SOCIALLY ENGAGED
- Stay active at work
- Join clubs
- Talk to family and friends
- Learn to manage the stress in your life
IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO START
- The earlier you begin to implement a healthy lifestyle the better, but even after someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's they can benefit from implementing a brain healthy lifestyle to possibly delay the onset of symptoms of the disease.
- Latinos and Alzheimer's - National Alzheimer's Association
- Latino Alzheimer's & Memory Disorders Alliance
- Center for Disease Control
- National Institute on Aging
- Eldercare Locator - Alzheimer's Disease