Here’s an unbelievable fact: A new case of dementia arises somewhere in the world every 3 seconds.
The rates are getting higher. The chances are high that there are lots of people who have and are still going to come down with dementia in the future. It already affects about 50 million people around the world, and based on the stats, there’ll be over 150 million people with dementia by 2050. Yeah… dementia’s bad news.
There is presently no known cure, and our best bet against it, as far as science has gone, is our lifestyle. This is probably why a lot of research has gone into foods that are optimal to prevent and manage dementia. The “MIND” diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), for instance, was developed.
A study revealed that the MIND diet has a 53 percent reduction rate in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. And for patients already diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it slows down cognitive decline and enhances memory.
Some of the foods which reduce the risk of dementia drastically are a part of the MIND diet and some are not. However, some similar characteristics cut across all these foods, such as the fact that they improve neuron health, reduce amyloid accumulation and increase cognitive ability.
Why Leafy Greens are Important
In 2018, a study was conducted involving adults of about 58 to 98 years, it was found that eating leafy greens could result in eleven years younger cognitive improvement.
Certain nutrients can improve the health and cognitive ability of the brain. Most of these nutrients are multivitamins because they help to preserve the nerves and prevent aging of the brain. And the best place to get multivitamins is leafy greens. Some of these leafy greens are spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, cabbage, kale, turnip greens, asparagus, red and green leaf lettuce, bok choy, and others. These leafy green vegetables have vitamins that improve the functioning of the brain.
Vitamins B6, B9, and B12 have been proven to have a positive effect on the health of the brain. They also help in the development of new brain cells and prevent the risk of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Vitamin E which is a super antioxidant also has a huge positive toll on cognitive function.
According to a 2014 research, “high-doses of vitamin E may help people with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s dementia continue to perform daily life functions for a short time.” Folate, which is another component of leafy greens, is also very important in the preservation of cognitive abilities.
The Uniqueness of Berries
Berries have high amounts of flavonoids which are very important for brain health. In a study that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that people with higher flavonoid intake from berries and other fruits had a 40% chance of not developing dementia compared to people who had a low intake of flavonoids. This happens because flavonoids enhance blood circulation.
If cerebrovascular circulation is enhanced, there would be a reduction in the decline of brain health.
Eating strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, and acai fruit should be encouraged amongst aging and young people alike. In children of about eight to 10 years, various studies have proven that berries improve their memory and cognitive function.
People who eat a large number of berries experience a slower decline in their cognitive function and there is an improved function in people who already have a mild cognitive disorder. Berries are for everyone who wants their brain to be as young as ever, as fresh as berries.
How Nuts Can Stave Off Dementia
Nuts and seeds have absolutely important components that promote neuron health. The most important of them is the fact that nuts have omega-3 fatty acids ― which improve your memory ― and nutrients obtained from plant-based sources such as magnesium and manganese.
According to Dr. Simran, there are some nuts you must include in your meals to preserve your brain health. Some of them are almonds, dates, pistachios, and walnuts. While it may be difficult to get this in your meals every day ― because not many meals usually have nuts ― you can work on having nuts as snacks and for desserts. Replacing junk with nuts would go a long way to improve brain health.
- Almonds: When you’re done with the sugary goodness of the almond, you can’t miss out on the nut that is twice as healthy. Almonds have proteins that build up brain cells and improve memory and cognitive ability. They also contain minerals and vitamins such as Zinc which reduces the harmful effects of free radicals and vitamin E which stops oxidation processes and slows down the aging of the brain cells. It also helps to repair brain cells and contains Omega-3 fatty acids that are neuroprotective.
- Walnuts are another great option for a healthy snack, and they are extremely important for brain health. They do not just improve memory or cognitive ability, they also enhance the speed and concentration at which information is processed. This is very important as demented patients find it difficult to process information as fast as possible.
- Pistachios are anti-inflammatory and are antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress, prevent brain injury and improve memory function.
- Dates: Though not regarded as a nut by some, dates provide antioxidants and other nutrients that reduce oxidative stress in the brain and preserve brain tissues. They hence prevent memory losses by preserving the association cortex which is mostly damaged in dementia.
A lot of spices like saffron, turmeric, pepper family, zingiber, and cinnamon have vital nutritional and medicinal benefits. Besides being anti-inflammatory, these spices may act as antioxidants and inhibit acetylcholinesterase and amyloid β aggregation.
Spices have anti-amyloid properties and antioxidant properties which are very neuroprotective. Turmeric specifically has cholesterol-lowering properties and metal chelation effects.
Reduced cholesterol eventually leads to decreased amyloid plaques, and metal chelation leads to reduced free radicals in the circulation and better cerebrovascular flow. Also, its metal binding capacity can reduce the neurotoxicity that could be caused by these heavy metals.
In Alzheimer’s patients, there is a reduced expression of insulin receptors, and cinnamon has insulin and insulin signaling mechanisms that help the neurons to last longer.
More than just being a great source of proteins for tissue building and repair, fishes contain a great amount of omega-3 fatty acids. The omega 3 fatty acids are great for brain health and function. This is because these fatty acids regulate blood clotting and arterial dilatation. This means that they enhance blood flow to the brain and improve brain function.
A 2012 research showed that people who ate fish high in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, sardines, tuna, halibut, and trout more often than others had a reduced risk of dementia. Also, Omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil slow the cognitive decline that comes with Alzheimer’s disease. Fish can be a good replacement for red meat in people who are at risk of having dementia and in all older people.
It is amazing to know that even though we cannot cure or stop dementia once, we can do our bit to prevent it from happening and also to slow the progression of the disease. If dementia is increasingly becoming a disease we have to deal with, we must be ready to adjust our habits and lifestyle to prevent it. And more than anything, we must care for our brains as long as we still have them active and well.