BY KANDACE GALLANT
“You always hear stories of people with Alzheimer’s and how terrible the disease is,” said Zoe Doran, a first-year student in pre-health sciences. “But when you actually have someone in your family who is suffering from it, that’s when you truly realize how horrible the disease really is.”
There are currently 47.5 million people worldwide living with dementia. It is estimated that by 2030, that number will increase to 75.6 million, and will then triple by 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada (www.alzheimer.ca). What is Alzheimer’s exactly? It is a brain disease that causes memory disorders and personality changes. It mainly affects people ages 65 and up, but in rare cases it has even affected people in their mid-20s and 30s.
“My grandfather is 69 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year,” said Doran. “But we’ve known that he’s had it for a couple of years now. He would write himself notes but have to read them 20 times, or he’d ask where we’re going when we were out for a drive even though we told him five minutes before.”
Doran said she read an article in a Women’s Health magazine about the new MIND diet that everyone is trying. She said it seemed really simple, so she decided to start doing it.
“I had never heard of a MIND diet before,” said Doran. “So when I started reading about it more and found that it helped to prevent diseases like dementia, I wanted to try it.”
Although the MIND diet doesn’t necessarily cause you to lose a few pounds or cleanse your body, it’s supposed to drastically help you reduce the risk of dementia, according to womenshealthmag.com.
“I started doing it too,” said Danielle Elgie, also a first-year student in pre-health sciences. “I’m also personally affected by this disease, so when Zoe told me about the MIND diet, I said I’d do it with her. It’s super easy to follow.”
Elgie said you don’t have to cut things out of your diet, but that you really have to eat certain things in moderation. Instead of going out to eat a couple of times a week, keep it to once a week. Eat red meat about four times a week, and eat more meats like chicken and fish. She said instead of eating junk food for a snack like chips or chocolate, she eats almonds or cashews or fruits and vegetables instead.
“When you say to people that you’ve started a new diet, they immediately think that you’re cutting out a bunch of things or that you won’t want to go out for dinner with them anymore,” said Elgie. “But that’s not the case with this. It’s easy to follow and it’s easy to keep track of the things you eat. If I go out for dinner I’ll have a chicken burger with salad on the side, instead of beef and fries.”
“I’m not saying that it’s going to prevent me from getting brain diseases in the future,” said Doran. “But it doesn’t hurt to try. And I’ve also been educating people about it too.”
On the website webmd.com, it states people who have stuck to the MIND diet cut their risk of getting Alzheimer’s by 54 per cent, and adults who tried it just for a short period of time still cut their risk by 35 per cent.
The cause of Alzheimer’s isn’t 100 per cent known, but it is likely caused by a buildup of harmful proteins in your brain called amyloids. They form large clumps and get in the way of brain function and kill the healthy cells. Symptoms differ from patient to patient, but many everyday things start to become a challenge, mainly being able to remember things.
“We’ve had to put my grandfather in a nursing home so he has help 24/7,” said Doran. “But he’s still as happy as ever and he remembers who his family is. He needs help eating and going to the washroom and bathing and sometimes he’ll be embarrassed, but we let him know it’s nothing to be ashamed of and that we’re happy to help him.”
The age expectancy after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is anywhere from four to eight years, but Doran and her family stay positive.
“It’s your family member, so you’ll do anything to help them out,” said Doran. “No matter what.” Doran and Elgie encourage people to try the MIND diet and to research other methods of reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s.