Whether you are 30 or 50 or 70 or 90, the lifestyle choices you make impact your overall health, and that includes your cognitive health. For years we’ve seen the recommendations from the medical community on how to prevent heart disease through diet, but now research is looking at ways to prevent dementia as well. Not surprisingly, many of the foods that support a healthy heart are the same foods that support a healthy mind.
I have dementia in my family history. Because of this, and because of my work as a health coach, I realize that living a healthy lifestyle will give me and the people I work with the best chance of avoiding dementia and other diseases of aging.
If you think about your body, every organ system affects the others, A healthy heart sends circulation throughout, including the brain; healthy lungs provide oxygen all through the body; a healthy liver and kidneys release toxins; a healthy digestive system absorbs and metabolizes nutrients. When one system isn’t working well, it stresses the others; if several systems are out of whack, you are more vulnerable to disease and decline and the risk of dementia.
Two Critical Pieces: Movement and Food
We’re learning that movement on a regular basis is vital in preventing dementia. Set up a routine that you can stick to; like all important things, you need to make it a priority. It makes sense that movement is important; it increases oxygen and improves circulation to the brain and other vital organs; it’s also a way to keep weight in check and your emotions positive.
Foods to Eat and Foods to Avoid
Rush University Medical Center in Chicago’s Martha Clare Morris, Ph.D., was lead author of the MIND diet study. MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. It is slightly different from the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet for heart health, but in general is quite similar.
In their study group, they found the foods that best protected study subjects from dementia and those that may harm.
Green leafy vegetables -- kale, spinach, broccoli, collards at least 2 daily; 6 is ideal
Other vegetables — one salad a day + one other vegetable
Nuts - 5 times a week
Berries - 2 or more times a week
Beans - 3 or more times a week
Whole grains 3 servings daily oats, rice, quinoa
Fish - 1 serving a week
Poultry - 2 or more times a week
Olive oil — as the main fat for cooking and dressings
Red wine — only 1 glass daily
Foods to Avoid
Red meat — included for those who want it but less than 4 servings weekly
Butter & Margarine - no more than 1 Tablespoon a day
Cheese only 1 time per week
Pastries, small portion 5 per week maximum
Fried food 1 week or less
My personal recommendation would be to have less red meat if any, and to choose only hormone and antibiotic free meat and poultry. I would also opt for butter, not margarine.
A useful formula to follow is included in my book Food Becomes You where you follow a 90/10 rule. That means 90% of what you eat is in the recommended foods list, while 10% is in the foods to avoid. Most of us do our best if we don’t restrict ourselves too harshly and leave some wiggle room for indulgences.
Getting back to preventing dementia, it turns out that the development of this disease is much like heart disease; it forms very gradually over at least two decades. That means it likely begins in your fifties, so if your diet is less than optimal in your fifties, now is the time to change it.
If you need help, I invite you to schedule a complimentary consultation in person or by phone. I can help you set up a routine that makes healthy eating easy and affordable. Contact me here and we’ll schedule time.