There are many claims out there — on click-bait websites, on Facebook and Twitter, in radio advertising — about so-called “miracle” products that prevent age-related memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
They’re all false. Every single last one of them.
The fact is, there is no known, surefire method that anyone can use to prevent the onset of dementia. Prevention steps that seem to work for some people don’t always work for others. Some treatments seem to benefit some patients, but do nothing at all for other patients.
That doesn’t mean that we’ll never discover effective means of Alzheimer’s and dementia prevention. It just means that more research is necessary to find them.
So, all those caveats in place, are there any steps that a Cincinnati senior can take to prevent, or stave off, age-related memory loss and Alzheimer’s dementia? Sure. Just remember that there are no guarantees.
We’ve talked before on this blog about the memory benefits that engaging in lifelong learning, being active and social, and exercising regularly may hold for seniors who want to prevent Alzheimer’s. Now, let’s talk about nutrition.
Eating Certain Foods May be Important for Brain Health
We do know that the regular intake of certain nutrients — vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate, for example — seems to be associated with better overall mind and body health.
We also know that obesity seems to be associated with an increased risk for many chronic, life-threatening disorders (Alzheimer’s and dementia included); watching your caloric intake, staying active and keeping trim may, therefore, be important for reducing your risk of memory loss.
So, with the strong word of caution that eating right are likely only a few pieces in a larger dementia prevention puzzle, here are some of the foods that you might want to consider introducing into your diet:
Fish is wonderful for you for several reasons. First, it’s a lean protein source — even “fatty” fishes like salmon are considered relatively heart healthy.
Second, fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which seems to have an important role to play in your neurons’ (brain and nerve cells) normal functions.
- Light Vegetable Oils
Virgin and extra virgin olive oil, light canola oil and sunflower oil are all “healthier” cooking oils, in that they’re mostly composed of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which are thought to be less damaging to your cardiovascular system than saturated and trans (hydrogenated) fats.
A limited intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils may help to boost your high-density lipoprotein level (HDL, the “good“ cholesterol value).
They also provide your brain with a rich source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant, which may help to protect your neurons from damage.
- Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, and Peanuts
You’ll want to be a bit judicious here. Nuts, seeds, and peanuts (which are technically legumes, like beans), all tend to be high in fat, so they can spike your calorie count and cause significant weight gain.
But the fats they contain are “healthier” fats, and they all contain our friend vitamin E. So, eating a handful or 2 a day, or getting some peanut butter or almond butter into your weekly diet, might be beneficial for your brain.
Some research has indicated that eating antioxidant-rich berries — blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, goji berries (from Asia) and açai berries (from South America) — may help to boost the body’s ability to clear toxic proteins, including amyloids and tau proteins, the buildups of which are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
They also seem to have anti-inflammatory properties; inflammatory processes in the brain are suspected to exacerbate memory loss, and may even have a role in the development of Alzheimer’s.
Remember, there’s no magic bullet for dementia prevention.
But eating right and incorporating potentially brain-enhancing foods, like those listed above, certainly can’t hurt. You may or may not successfully prevent Alzheimer’s, but you’ll live a healthier, more rewarding life overall if you watch your weight and get the right mix of brain-healthy nutrients.