Mediterranean Diet: A Heart-healthy Eating Plan

(Mayo Clinic) The heart-healthy Mediterranean is a healthy eating plan based on typical foods and recipes of Mediterranean-style cooking. Here’s how to adopt the Mediterranean diet.

If you’re looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet might be right for you. The Mediterranean diet incorporates the basics of healthy eating — plus a splash of flavorful olive oil and perhaps even a glass of red wine — among other components characterizing the traditional cooking style of countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.

Most healthy diets include fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, and limit unhealthy fats. While these parts of a healthy diet remain tried-and-true, subtle variations or differences in proportions of certain foods may make a difference in your risk of heart disease.

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. In fact, an analysis of more than 1.5 million healthy adults demonstrated that following a Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of death from heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends the Mediterranean diet as an eating plan that can help promote health and prevent disease. And the Mediterranean diet is one your whole family can follow for good health. mcdc6_pyramid_mediterranean

Key Components of the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional)

The diet also recognizes the importance of being physically active, and enjoying meals with family and friends.

Focus on Fruits, Vegetables, Nuts and Grains

The Mediterranean diet traditionally includes fruits, vegetables and grains. For example, residents of Greece average six or more servings a day of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.

Grains in the Mediterranean region are typically whole grain and usually contain very few unhealthy trans fats, and bread is an important part of the diet. However, throughout the Mediterranean region, bread is eaten plain or dipped in olive oil — not eaten with butter or margarine, which contains saturated or trans fats.

Nuts are another part of a healthy Mediterranean diet. Nuts are high in fat, but most of the fat is healthy. Because nuts are high in calories, they should not be eaten in large amounts — generally no more than a handful a day. For the best nutrition, avoid candied or honey-roasted and heavily salted nuts.

Choose Healthier Fats

The focus of the Mediterranean diet isn’t on limiting total fat consumption, but rather on choosing healthier types of fat. The Mediterranean diet discourages saturated fats and hydrogenated oils (trans fats), both of which contribute to heart disease.

The Mediterranean diet features olive oil as the primary source of fat. Olive oil is mainly monounsaturated fat — a type of fat that can help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels when used in place of saturated or trans fats. “Extra-virgin” and “virgin” olive oils (the least processed forms) also contain the highest levels of protective plant compounds that provide antioxidant effects.

Canola oil and some nuts contain the beneficial linolenic acid (a type of omega-3 fatty acid) in addition to healthy unsaturated fat. Omega-3 fatty acids lower triglycerides, decrease blood clotting, and are associated with decreased incidence of sudden heart attacks, improve the health of your blood vessels, and help moderate blood pressure. Fatty fish — such as mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna and salmon — are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is eaten on a regular basis in the Mediterranean diet.

What about Wine?

The health effects of alcohol have been debated for many years, and some doctors are reluctant to encourage alcohol consumption because of the health consequences of excessive drinking. However, alcohol — in moderation — has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease in some research studies.

The Mediterranean diet typically includes a moderate amount of wine, usually red wine. This means no more than 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine daily for women of all ages and men older than age 65 and no more than 10 ounces (296 milliliters) of wine daily for younger men. More than this may increase the risk of health problems, including increased risk of certain types of cancer.

If you’re unable to limit your alcohol intake to the amounts defined above, if you have a personal or family history of alcohol abuse, or if you have heart or liver disease, refrain from drinking wine or any other alcohol.

Putting it All Together

The Mediterranean diet is a delicious and healthy way to eat. Many people who switch to this style of eating say they’ll never eat any other way. Here are some specific steps to get you started:

  • Eat your veggies and fruits — and switch to whole grains.Avariety of plant foods should make up the majority of your meals. They should be minimally processed — fresh and whole are best. Include veggies and fruits in every meal and eat them for snacks as well. Switch to whole-grain bread and cereal, and begin to eat more whole-grain rice and pasta products. Keep baby carrots, apples and bananas on hand for quick, satisfying snacks. Fruit salads are a wonderful way to eat a variety of healthy fruit.
  • Go nuts. Nuts and seeds are good sources of fiber, protein and healthy fats. Keep almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts on hand for a quick snack. Choose natural peanut butter, rather than the kind with hydrogenated fat added. Try blended sesame seeds (tahini) as a dip or spread for bread.
  • Pass on the butter. Try olive or canola oil as a healthy replacement for butter or margarine. Lightly drizzle it over vegetables. After cooking pasta, add a touch of olive oil, some garlic and green onions for flavoring. Dip bread in flavored olive oil or lightly spread it on whole-grain bread for a tasty alternative to butter. Try tahini as a dip or spread for bread too.
  • Spice it up. Herbs and spices make food tasty and can stand in for salt and fat in recipes.
  • Go fish. Eat fish at least twice a week. Fresh or water-packed tuna, salmon, trout, mackerel and herring are healthy choices. Grill, bake or broil fish for great taste and easy cleanup. Avoid breaded and fried fish.
  • Rein in the red meat. Limit red meat to no more than a few times a month. Substitute fish and poultry for red meat. When choosing red meat, make sure it’s lean and keep portions small (about the size of a deck of cards). Also avoid sausage, bacon and other high-fat, processed meats.
  • Choose low-fat dairy. Limit higher fat dairy products, such as whole or 2 percent milk, cheese and ice cream. Switch to skim milk, fat-free yogurt and low-fat cheese.
Citation

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

© 1998-2016 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.

 

Help with Alzheimer’s Caregiving

(NIH) Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease can draw on many sources of help for caregiving and financial support. Here are some places that provide general support and advice for Alzheimer’s caregivers.

General Support

  • The Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center offers information on diagnosis, treatment, patient care, caregiver needs, long-term care, research, and clinical trials related to Alzheimer’s. Staff can refer you to local and national resources, or you can search for information on the website. The Center, a service of the National Institute on Aging, can be reached at 1-800-438-4380 or www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association offers information, a help line, and support services to people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Local chapters across the country offer support groups, including many that help with early-stage Alzheimer’s. To find support groups in your area, call 1-800-272-3900.
  • The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America provides information about Alzheimer’s caregiving and a list of services for people with Alzheimer’s. Services include a toll-free hotline, publications, and other educational materials. Contact the Foundation at 1-866-232-8484.
  • The National Institute on Aging Information Center offers free publications about aging in English and Spanish. They can be viewed, printed, and ordered from the Internet. Contact the Center at 1-800-222-2225 or visitwww.nia.nih.gov.

Government Health Insurance

Government agencies and private organizations provide health insurance and other kinds of financial support and services for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

Medicare is a Federal health insurance program that pays some medical costs for people age 65 and older and for those who have received Social Security Disability Income for 24 months.

  • Medicare Part A covers hospital visits after you pay a certain amount and short stays in a nursing home for certain kinds of illnesses.
  • Medicare Part B helps pay for certain medical services, such as doctor’s fees, lab tests, x-rays, and medical equipment.
  • Medicare Part D covers some prescription drug costs.

For more information, call 1-800-633-4227 or visit www.medicare.gov

Medicaid is a combined Federal-State health insurance program for low-income people and families. This program will pay for nursing home care and sometimes long-term care at home if you meet financial requirements. For more information, visitwww.medicaid.gov

Other Government Benefits

Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) is a program that combines Medicare and Medicaid benefits. It pays medical, social service, and long-term care costs for frail, low-income people age 55 and older. PACE permits most people who qualify to continue living at home instead of moving to a long-term care facility. The program is available only in certain areas. To find out more, visit PACE.

Social Security Disability Income is for people younger than age 65 who are disabled according to the Social Security Administration’s definition. You must be able to show that the person with Alzheimer’s is unable to work, and that his or her condition will last at least a year or is expected to result in death. Visit www.ssa.gov/pgm/disability.htmfor details.

Social Security also has “compassionate allowances” to help people with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, mixed dementia, frontotemporal dementia/Pick’s disease, primary progressive aphasia, and other serious medical conditions get disability benefits more quickly. To find out more, call 1-800-772-1213 or visitwww.socialsecurity.gov/compassionateallowances.

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) is another resource for caregivers. This is a national program offered in each State that provides free counseling and advice about Medicare coverage and benefits. To contact a SHIP counselor in your State, visit The Ship National Technical Assistance Center

Help for Veterans

If the person with Alzheimer’s disease is a veteran, he or she may qualify for long-term care provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). There could be a waiting list for VA nursing homes. The VA also provides some at-home care. To learn more about VA benefits, call 1-877-222-8387 or visitwww.va.gov/health.

Other Sources of Help

The National Council on Aging, a private group, has a free service calledBenefitsCheckUp. This service helps you find Federal and State benefit programs that can help pay for prescription drugs, heating bills, housing, meal programs, and legal and other services. To learn more about BenefitsCheckUp, call 1-571-527-3900.

For more information, see Getting Help with Caregiving. You can order a print copy of this booklet by calling 1-800-222-2225 or visiting www.nia.nih.gov/health.

Finding Local Resources

Federal and States Programs (Other than Medicaid): Many communities have programs to assist people with Alzheimer’s disease in a number of different ways. One of the best ways to determine what government assistance is available is to contact your local Area Agency on Aging.

The local Area Agency on Aging may be able to connect you with services such as Meals on Wheels, transportation services to help get to doctors’ appointments, or support groups for people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, and other home care programs. These resources are particularly important if you choose to remain in your home.

Counseling and Support

Getting information and counseling from reliable sources, such as community organizations and support groups, can help both people with Alzheimer’s and family members adjust to the challenges of the disease and reduce stress.

Counseling can help you understand how a person with Alzheimer’s is changing, and help you figure out how to deal with those changes. By learning some tips from people who have experience with this disease, caregivers can be better prepared and less stressed as new challenges come up.

Support groups can connect you with people who are facing similar circumstances. Participating in groups or talking with someone on the phone can help reduce feelings of isolation.

Finding the right counseling for you and the person you are taking care of is an important piece of the care and treatment puzzle.

Finding Alzheimer’s Capable Care

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, you may need to consider in-home assistance or residential care facilities. There are several easy-to-use tools to help you figure out your needs and find care assistance.

Deciding Where to Live

Staying at Home: Most people prefer to stay at home for as long as possible. Staying at home often requires two elements: 1) finding care providers who will come to the home; and 2) adapting the home to reduce obstacles that hinder care giving and make the home unsafe for a person with Alzheimer’s disease. In many cases, small changes to the home can make it possible to live at home longer.

Home- and community-based services

The Alzheimer’s Association External Web Site Policy has a list of services that may be included in home- and community-based services waivers.

Respite Care

The Alzheimer’s Association External Web Site Policy explains available types of care centers and resources to find care facilities.

Types of licensed residences in your area:

Residential Care: If staying at home is no longer an option, there are different kinds of facilities that take care of people with Alzheimer’s.

Citation

http://nihseniorhealth.gov/alzheimerscare/caregiversupport/01.html

http://www.alzheimers.gov/choosing_care.html

 U.S. Department of Health & Human Services