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Food and Nutrition

Though there is not yet a precise method to prevent or cure dementia, professionals point out that dementia could be delayed or degeneration slowed by healthy lifestyle habits: such as not smoking, regular exercise, learning to relax, good maintenance of vascular health, blood pressure and diabetes, supported by a balanced diet.

A Healthy Diet for Healthy Brains

1. Balanced diet
  • Follow the food pyramid
  • Make sure the daily diet includes grains, fruits, vegetables/legumes, meat/fish/beans/eggs/dairy products/calcium fortified beancurd drinks
  • Increase food variety
  • Establish regular meal times and add snacks in between if needed
2. Fruit and vegetables
  • Rich in antioxidants to slow ageing and damage of cells, including brain cells
  • Fibre, vitamins (especially the vitamin B family) and minerals are good for enhanc ing memory
  • High potassium content helps lower blood pressure and maintain vascular health
  • Two portions of fruit and three portions of vegetables are recommended every day
3. Fish
  • A high level of omega-3 fatty acids contributes to keeping brain cells healthy
  • Have fish, especially deep-sea fish, at least three times a week
4. Water
  • Drink at least six to eight glasses of liquids per day, including plain water, milk, tea and soup, to aid metabolism
5. Reduce salt intake
  • Seniors prefer salty food as their taste buds are dulled over time but high sodium intake is linked to high blood pressure and affects vascular health
  • Use natural flavouring ingredients such as green onions, garlic and herbs
  • Consume less high-sodium food such as salted fish, preserved vegetables and roast meat
6. Reduce oil and sugar intake
  • Use healthier cooking methods such as steaming, blanching, simmering and braising
  • Eat less fried or deep fried food, and use less oil for cooking
  • Eat less high-fat food, remove skin, fat and fatty parts of meat, to control weight and avoid cardio-vascular diseases
  • Choose low-fat or skimmed milk
  • Choose healthier vegetable oil such as canola or olive oil
  • Eat less sugary food such as chocolates or soda to control blood sugar levels and maintain vascular health
7. Minimise alcohol intake
8. Take nutritional supplements judiciously

Healthy Eating Food Pyramid for Elderly

Oil, salt, sugar
At absolute minimum
Milk and dairy

1-2 glasses daily
1 glass = 240 ml

Meat, fish, beans and eggs

4-5 taels daily
1 tael = 1 ping-pong ball sized portion

Vegetables and legumes
6-8 taels daily
= 1-113 of a levelled bowl of cooked vegetables
Fruit

2-3 portions daily
1 portion = a medium-sized orange or apple

Grains

3-4 bowls daily
1 bowl = 300 ml

Source: Central Health Education Unit, Department of Health

Common nutritional problems

Over- or under- weight
  • A sign of dietary imbalance
  • Note if the senior is not able to prepare a meal or is forgetting to eat
  • Emotional issues may affect appetite
  • Seek professional opinions
Constipation
  • Severe constipation can cause irritation, sleeping problems and even delirium
  • Help people with dementia establish regular toilet habits, a healthy diet and regular exercise
  • Encourage eating high-fibre food such as whole grains, fruit and vegetables
Loss of appetite or excessive eating
  • Appetite loss may be due to a declining sense of taste and smell
  • Stimulate appetites with colours and natural flavouring
  • Some person with dementia may eat excessively due to their inability to track time or feel if they are hungry or full. Caregivers can prepare meals for them and be aware of the kinds of food to keep at home and where to store them

Control blood pressure and blood sugar to maintain cardiovascular health

  • Keep track of blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and blood lipid levels
  • Take medication on time
  • Regularly check if there are signs of diabetic complications
  • Seek nutritionist’s advice on diets for diabetics