Apr 10 2014, 6:03pm CDT | by Forbes
Can you prevent Alzheimer’s Disease? Can you avoid being like 5.2 million older people across this country with dementia?
As far as we know, no one thing can prevent this brain killing disease. However, there is increasing evidence that a Mediterranean diet can protect us. The recent Johns Hopkins Health Alert reports on two separate studies that suggest that this kind of eating can protect against cognitive decline.
The first study, reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that emphasis on plant based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, grains, and fish with limited full-fat dairy and meat protected against cognitive impairment, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease. The Alert reports that even people who adhered moderately to this kind of diet had protective effects from it.
The second study, reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry looked at a comparison of two groups of people in their 70s. One group followed the Mediterranean diet and the other followed a low fat diet.
After six years, those who followed a Mediterranean diet scored significantly higher on standardized cognitive tests than those who followed the low-fat diet. Those who scored higher were also less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
These two studies are not the first to suggest that a plant based diet with limited red meat, limited animal fat and lots of fruits and vegetables can ward off Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementias. Yet, Americans keep eating lots of red meat, full fat dairy products, and not enough fish. And as a society, we consume far fewer than recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables./>
Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. There are now multiple studies that show the same results as those recently reported in the latest Health Alert from Johns Hopkins. If you notice what studies show about how to prevent the other biggest killers in our country, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer, they say almost exactly the same thing: eat a lot of fruits and veggies, little meat, more fish and stick to plant sources of fat, such as nuts and olive oil instead of animal fat. it’s all the same: prevent one and you presumably help prevent multiple risks of getting sick or dying too young.
Are we, as Americans eating a fast food laden, fried food heavy, unhealthy diet because we don’t know what’s good for us? Certainly not! We hear this same information all the time about how to prevent disease and live longer. We know what’s good for us. We’re maybe just too unwilling to change.
So here’s the challenge.
Do you know anyone who has dementia? Do you have an aging parent with dementia? Do you want to be like that, a burden to your loved ones? If not, make a promise to yourself. Start small. Change one thing in your daily eating habits by taking out something that is not good for you. (Soda? A serving of red meat? Fries?) And add in one good thing ( an apple, an orange a green salad) every day. It’s a start. Maybe you’ll progress to more than one if you set your mind to it.
As for me, I live in Marin County, California, with the longest lived women in the U.S. and the fifth longest lived men. We’re loaded with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods (gluten free for the believers, too) and fresh fish aplenty, as we’re just north of San Francisco,on the Bay. Around here it’s easier to eat properly because so many choices are available for the right stuff. If you aren’t so lucky, you can still do it. It just takes more work. At AgingParents.com we’re strong advocates for healthy aging, as we see too much in our clients’ parents of what unhealthy aging looks like. To me, the prospect of living long without dementia is worth the work.
Think about how your food choices now affect your chances down the road. Healthy aging or too rapid decline? Change for the better, one step at a time. And may you live a long and healthy life with all your marbles.
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