Quinn on Nutrition: Report offers healthy habits to prevent dementia

October 6, 2014

"Something’s not right with my brain," my dad told me the year before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease — the most common cause of dementia that destroys brains cells and nerves that carry messages in the brain. He was in his 70s at the time and the man I had always admired for his sharp memory.

Even though we sometimes forget things as we get older, dementia is not a part of normal aging, say experts from Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) which just released the World Alzheimer Report 2014. According to these experts, "a whole raft of research studies" now demonstrate that we may reduce our risk for developing dementia if we follow healthier lifestyles. Here are some of the key recommendations from this report:

Take care of your heart. What’s good for our heart is also very good for our brain, say experts. That includes strategies to control blood cholesterol and other markers of heart disease.

Don’t smoke. After the age of 65, ex-smokers have the same risk of dementia as people who have never smoked. Those who continue to smoke, however, are at much higher risk.

Keep your blood pressure under control. Raised blood pressure in our middle years of life is associated with a "considerable increase in risk for dementia in late life," stated one reviewer of this report.

Be physically active. When we keep our bodies healthy, we keep our brains healthy, too, say researchers. Besides helping to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels, exercise may directly improve the function of nerves and memory transmitters in the brain, according to this report. They also urge more study in this area.

Eat a healthy diet. Most promising to ward off dementia appears to be the Mediterranean-type of diet, say researchers. This eating style — rich in cereals, fruits, fish, legumes, and vegetables — supplies key nutrients that nourish brain development and health such as omega-3 fats from fish and B-vitamins from cereals and legumes. And a diet rich in fruits and vegetables supplies a host of antioxidant nutrients that can protect message-carrying neurons in the brain.

Keep your blood glucose (sugar) levels under control. People with diabetes have a 50% increased chance to develop dementia later in life, according to this report.

Challenge your brain. Mentally stimulating activities throughout life can help ward off the development of dementia later in life.

Enjoy social activities. I really like this recommendation. It’s based on evidence that enjoying ourselves in social situations can help stave off dementia.

Aging is a gift, this report reminds us. And making good choices can help determine how well we age.

Lastly, keep learning, say these experts. Education in early life and beyond is strongly protective against dementia. Learn more from this report at .




McClatchy-Tribune Information Services