It’s no secret that Americans are consuming significantly more sugar than past generations. In fact, Psychology Today reports the average adult eats between two and three pounds of sugar per week. The physical effects of this empty-calorie food can include weight gain and even diabetes. Research also shows high amounts of sugar can negatively affect the brain, especially in seniors, an age group already at higher risk for conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Here’s how sugar, which often hides in many packaged convenience foods, can put your senior loved one at risk as well as information on what you can do to help.
Effects on the Brain
When the body processes sugar, glucose (blood sugar) levels can increase, thereby activating the hypothalamus in the brain. Overall, the brain treats sugar as if it were an invader, like a virus. This sort of response causes wear and tear on the brain, thereby decreasing long-term cognitive abilities. Refined sugar may even affect short-term memory.
Home caregivers can help aging adults plan and prepare nutritious meals that don’t contain high levels of sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. Seniors who want to remain healthy as they age can benefit in a variety of ways when they receive professional in-home care. Home Care Assistance is here to help your loved one accomplish daily tasks, prevent illness, and focus on living a healthier and more fulfilling life.
A 2012 study involving 1,230 seniors between 70 and 89 years old found a strong link between food choices and cognitive impairment. The study concluded a high-sugar diet increased the risk of cognitive issues by 1.5 times more than participants whose diets were low in sugar.
Some seniors require assistance preparing healthy meals on a regular basis. Aging in place can present a few unique challenges for older adults. Some only require part-time assistance with exercise or meal preparation, while others are living with serious illnesses and benefit more significantly from receiving live-in care. Carmichael, CA, Home Care Assistance are leaders in the elderly in-home care industry for good reason. We tailor our care plans based on each senior’s individual needs, our caregivers continue to receive updated training in senior care as new developments arise, and we also offer comprehensive care for seniors with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s.
Ways to Cut Down
Given the adverse impacts on the brain, it’s important for seniors to cut down on sugar. Your loved one can reduce overall sugar intake by taking the following steps:
- Not drinking soda
- Drinking only 100 percent juice (in limited quantities)
- Choosing unsweetened tea instead of sweet tea
- Refraining from “low-fat” packaged foods (which often contain more sugar and sodium)
Looking at nutrition labels can also provide clues to sugar content. Accompany your loved one on trips to the grocery store to identify good versus bad foods, or consider hiring a home caregiver who can assist with grocery shopping during the times you’re unavailable. Examples of hidden sources of sugar to look for in the ingredients list include:
- Corn sweetener/syrup
Eating sugar doesn’t automatically mean older adults will develop cognitive issues, but cutting down can act as a preventative measure, offering a level of protection for the aging brain.
Controlling their sugar intake is just one way for seniors to boost their health. If you have a senior loved one who needs help maintaining a high quality of life while aging in place, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of senior home care Carmichael families can rely on. All of our caregivers are bonded, licensed, and insured, there are no hidden fees, and we never ask our clients to sign long-term contracts. To create a comprehensive in-home care plan for your loved one, call us at (916) 485-4663 today.