Dementia will soon become the most pervasive chronic disease in our country. Many of us are at risk because of our genetics, medical conditions or lifestyle. There is compelling evidence that there are many things regarding our diets that can decrease our genetics risks and improve contributing medical conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension.
The anatomic and physiologic changes of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s and dementia may start many years before the actual clinical presentation of loss of memory and impairment of judgment.
Recent research presented at an international neurology conference as well as many previously published articles support the following do’s and don’ts on tips regarding diet and a healthier brain.
- The Mediterranean diet is the only diet that has been show to contribute to a slower cognitive decline and lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease in individuals with known family history. That means eating good fats from fish, olive oil and avocados. Loads of vegetables some whole grains and a glass of red wine with dinner.
- Avoidance of trans fats and low intake of saturated fat from red meat and dairy may support better cognition according to many sources. Think of trans fats (not available in nature) as cement that makes for rigid, slow brain cells.
- Just say no! To fried foods! Need I say more?
- A study of over 3,000 twins showed a decreased risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s with moderate to large intake of fruits and veggies. Stay away from starchy veggies.
- A high sugar diet kills brain cells and can accelerate memory loss. Eating foods with added sugar can increase your risk of dementia. Insulin resistance increases your risk as well so maintaining an optimal blood sugar and avoiding diabetes may help
- Phytochemical rich foods can help to prevent age related neurodegeneration. That includes fruits and vegetables, chocolate (70% cocoa) and coffee too!
- Flavanoids from fruits like blue berries, apples, purple grapes and pears can decrease the risk of memory loss by decreasing inflammation. Turmeric and curry can decrease inflammation as well.
- At least one study looked at individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s discovered a decreased risk with fish eaten three times a week. (Omega 3 rich fish like Salmon, sardines, tilapia and tuna) omega 3 fatty acids probably help due to their effect on decreasing inflammation of blood vessels. Fish, olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds are good choices for healthy fats.
- A healthy brain requires B vitamins to decrease inflammation and maintain myelin (the brains protective insulation). Particularly, folate, B6 and B12. Most of us need to consider supplementation.
- Alcohol intake remains controversial with some experts recommending moderate intake as per the Mediterranean diet while others preach abstinence.
- A “diet” of exercise very important for a sharp mind
- A “diet” of high stress is a very important contributor to dementia
So we “are what we eat”! Particularly when it comes to brain health.