Dementia is a heart-breaking condition that affects more and more Americans as our elderly population increases. In 2002, dementia struck 13.9% individuals aged 71 and older or about 3.4 million individuals in the United States. By 2030, the population of elderly Americans will increase to 70 million adding to the number of people at high risk of this disease! Dementia is a far-reaching condition because he decline in memory and other thought processes causes a loss of independence that impacts individuals, their families and the healthcare system.
Not surprisingly, the food you eat has a lot to do with the health of your brain as you age. People in their late 80s with higher blood levels of vitamins B, C, D and E and omega-3 fatty acids did better on cognitive tests and had less of the brain shrinkage than typical Alzheimer’s patients, according to a study from Oregon Health and Science University. Another recent study from the University of Miami found that a Mediterranean diet, with vegetables, fruit, small amounts of meat and fish, whole grains, nuts and olive oil, may protect the brain from small blood-vessel damage. Many other studies have investigated the dementia-fighting benefits of leafy greens and vegetables like cabbage and cauliflower. Protect yourself and your loved ones by including these healthy items in your nutritional regimen:
- Beans and green peas provide a rich dietary source of B-complex vitamins. A 2010 University of Oxford study found that people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment who took a supplement containing vitamins B-6 and B-12 for two years actually lowered their levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Folic acid may also be instrumental in lower brain shrinkage.
- Citrus fruit is a great source of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). Swedish scientists at Lund University reported that in laboratory mice, vitamin C dissolved the toxic plaques that accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. They weren't alone... a 2004 Johns Hopkins University study showed that taking multivitamins containing vitamins C and E reduces the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s!
- Almonds, other nuts and avocados are all great sources vitamin E, an antioxidant that works on a molecular level to promote healthy blood vessels. The brain thrives on oxygen-rich blood, so vitamin E is a vital part of a brain-healthy diet and studies show that people with the highest blood levels of Vitamin E have a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The most common sources of vitamin E are olive, canola and sunflower oils. It’s important to get your vitamin E from food, some studies have tied high-dose supplements to serious medical conditions, including prostate cancer.
- Omega-3 is a vital addition to your brain healthy diet. UCLA researchers took blood samples and performed MRI scans on 1,575 people and found that people with lower omega-3 levels in their red blood cells had more brain shrinkage and performed lower on memory tests! The best sources are oily cold-water fish, such as salmon, herring and mackerel, eaten once or twice a week. If you don’t eat fish, consider fish-oil supplements.
- Spinach is rich in vitamins A and K, folic acid and iron and is packed with at least 15 different antioxidant compounds known as flavonoids. Flavonoids inhibit the formation of the beta-amyloid plaques that build up with Alzheimer’s disease.
- A 2009 University of South Florida study indicated that caffeinated coffee decreases blood levels of a plaque-forming protein and actually reduced Alzheimer’s-like cognitive impairment in mice. The Florida research also found that beta-amyloid protein levels dropped in elderly people without dementia after they were given caffeine.
Different studies have shown that a careful, healthy diet can actually reverse some of the destructive symptoms of dementia. It is a terrible disease, protect yourself and your loved ones ... eat a healthy diet for a long, active life!