Our dietary and lifestyle habits play an important role in our physical and mental health. Research continues to emerge regarding the role our nutritional status plays in neurological function and decline. Alzheimer’s Dementia is on the rise, and is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly. Although more research is necessary, the presence of chronic diseases such as Diabetes and Cardiovascular disease are thought to be contributing factors to neurological decline seen in individuals with Alzheimer’s Dementia.
Alzheimer’s Dementia has been termed “Type 3 Diabetes” for years; it’s been found that individuals with Type 2 Diabetes are as much as 50-65% more at risk from developing Alzheimer’s Dementia. The components of a typical “Western Diet” are leading us into a state of nutritional decline and may be a contributing factor to mental decline as well. We are consuming a diet that is overrun with saturated fat, processed foods, added sugars, and high fat dairy products. So what should we be eating more of to maintain proper brain health? Certain foods have been found to enhance memory and improve brain function. To start, we should all be eating more vegetables, especially cruciferous veggies such as broccoli, kale, and spinach, as they pack a huge antioxidant punch, and provide protection against age-related cognitive decline. Berries, such as blackberries and blueberries, help to prevent inflammation and free-radical damage to cells in the brain, helping to improve cognitive function as we age. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which include salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, flaxseeds, and walnuts, will help to promote adequate levels of DHA in the brain, which promotes brain health and function. Things to limit for overall brain health include saturated and trans fat, refined and added sugars, red meat, and alcohol.
What about supplementation?
In addition to eating a balanced diet, there is research indicating that taking a daily omega 3 fatty acid supplement can be beneficial in promoting healthy levels of DHA in the brain. It has been found that the brains of individuals with Alzheimer’s Dementia have lower DHA levels, and that taking daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement may help with symptoms of the early stages of Alzheimer’s Dementia. Fish oil supplements may come from fish oil, seaweed, or microalgae supplements. Consult with your physician to determine what your best option would be.
How does physical activity play a role?
Exercise is an important component of a healthy lifestyle, and can play a role in improved brain function. As exercise increases blood and oxygen flow in the brain, it can directly benefit the brain cells. Exercise plays a major role in preventing chronic disease, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, which may help with preventing the development of Alzheimer’s Dementia. Exercise also aids in stress management, maintaining a healthy weight, and preventing the development of chronic diseases which are thought to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s Dementia.
What other lifestyle factors should be considered?
There are other pieces of the puzzle when it comes to keeping our brains as active and healthy as possible. Making sure to follow up regularly with a physician to address your weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugars are very important. Nutrition counseling is a great way to help maximize your nutritional status and ensure that these numbers are getting within a healthier range. Making sure to address sleep habits, as insomnia and lack of sleep has been linked to memory loss and difficulty thinking. If you smoke, it’s important to address this as well and talk to your physician about a smoking cessation program. It’s also important that you are working on stress management, which may require professional attention to address anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders.
When it comes to preventing neurological decline as seen with Alzheimer’s Dementia, please remember that it’s very important to take a look at your overall dietary and lifestyle habits, as studies are steadily proving that they play a vital role in both our physical and mental well-being.