Healthier Eating = Healthier Brain: A Simple Brain Health Equation

Healthier Eating = Healthier Brain: A Simple Brain Health Equation

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senior-making-foodDid you know that there may be a connection between what you eat and keeping your brain healthy? US News reports that more than half of all Alzheimer's cases across the globe might be attributed to potentially modifiable risk factors like diet.

And as March is Nutrition Month, now is a good time to educate yourself on how your food choices could be affecting your cognitive health—or the memory care of a loved one. Some foods provide your body with nutrients that enhance memory care while others introduce things that interfere with brain functioning and health. Learn which foods keep your brain working at its best and take a step toward better brain health.

Fighting the Good Fight by Eating Right

There is, according to the Association, a growing body of scientific evidence that links brain health to heart health, and a healthy diet reduces your risk of developing chronic illnesses that affect your overall health as high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol—which are often caused or exacerbated by unhealthy eating habits— damage the cardiovascular system that is responsible for pumping blood to the brain. Every heartbeat pumps about 20 to 25 percent of your blood to your head, where brain cells use at least 20 percent of the food and oxygen your blood carries.

Chronic high blood pressure stretches the elastic walls of the arteries, making the heart work harder to circulate blood. Think of a water hose. Constant pressure on the walls of the hose causes the rubber to crack and expand. That expansion reduces the water pressure, making the garden hose less efficient.

High blood cholesterol leads to plaque build-up in the arteries, and as plaque attaches to the artery walls, blood flow becomes restricted. Picture mud clogging the water hose and you get an idea of why plaque is a concern.

What to Eat for Brain Health

The key to maintaining brain health through proper diet is to be smart when choosing carbohydrates.

Refined starches like white bread lead to inflammation, explains neurologist David Perimutter. Strike processed foods that are high in fat and refined carbohydrates— like boxed meals, fried and fast food—from your meal planning and opt for foods that have good carbohydrates which reduce inflammation, improving your brain health.

So, what food should you eat to improve your brain health? The American Heart Association suggests you fill your plate with:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon or albacore tuna
  • Whole grains and other high fiber foods
  • Beans
  • Lean meat

As an added benefit these healthful foods, and colorful fruits and vegetables in particular, are rich in antioxidants that can help fight cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Finding the Right Diet Plan

If you are looking for a structured meal plan for mom that supports her memory care, try the Mediterranean diet. With the Mediterranean diet plan, which is associated with weight loss, cardiac health and cancer prevention, you pile whole grains, healthy fats (from olive oil or fatty fish) and plenty of fruits and veggies on your plate at each meal and limit consumption of red meat, dairy, and sweets.

Another popular plan that is good for the brain is the Paleo diet which features modernized versions of meals that wouldn’t have be out of place on a Stone Age menu—meat, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables.  Dairy, refined sugar and grains are verboten. After all, when was the last time you read about a caveman having French fries and a milkshake?

One thing both these diets have in common? A lack of bad carbohydrates.

Here’s the bottom line:

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that there are already over 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and one more develops the disease roughly every 67 seconds. While the medical science on the disease is still opaque, there is evidence that what you eat influences the health of your brain. This March, take a deeper look at your diet and make a commitment to healthier eating and a healthier brain—for you and your loved ones.

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Bryan Reynolds
March 21, 2015
Bryan Reynolds is the Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Bryan is responsible for developing and implementing ERS' digital marketing strategy, and overseeing the website, social media outlets, audio and video content and online advertising. After originally attending The Ohio State University, he graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of fine arts focused on electronic media. Bryan loves to share his passion for technology by assisting older adults with their computer and mobile devices. He has taught several classes within ERS communities as well as at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute run by the University of Cincinnati. He also participates on the Technology Team at ERS to help provide direction. Bryan and his wife Krista currently reside in Lebanon, Ohio with their 5 children.

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