Worried about losing your memory? Eat your greens

eat greens to save memory copy

Memory loss and dementia are valid concerns for everyone these days: one in three seniors dies of Alzheimer’s or dementia and Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, dementia is largely preventable with many lifestyle and dietary adjustments, one of which is including plenty of greens in your diet.

New research shows eating plenty of spinach, kale, collards, and mustard greens can help slow cognitive decline. Researchers believe the high vitamin K content in these vegetables plays a role in preserving brain health.

The study tracked almost 1,000 older adults during five years and saw significantly less cognitive decline in participants who ate leafy green vegetables.

In fact, the elders who ate one to two servings a day of leafy greens had the cognitive ability of someone 11 years younger.

Researchers credited not only the vitamin K in leafy greens for slowing cognitive decline, but also lutein and beta-carotene. Other brightly colored fruits and vegetables are also high in these vitamins.

Vitamins aren’t the only brain benefits of leafy greens — greens promote healthy gut bacteria

The vitamins in leafy greens aren’t their only benefits.

For one, leafy greens are also rich in fiber, which are good for the gut. Plenty of dietary fiber not only prevents constipation, but it also supports the healthy bacteria in your gut. People who eat diets high in plant fiber show a more beneficial composition of gut bacteria compared to those who eat a typical western diet.

Scientists have increasingly been discovering how vital beneficial gut bacteria are to brain health. For instance, healthy gut bacteria promote the integrity of the blood-brain barrier, the lining that protects the brain.

Gut bacteria have also been shown to influence depression, anxiety, learning, and memory. This is because the gut and the brain communicate closely with one another through the vagus nerve, a large nerve that runs between the brain and the organs.

Eating greens is usually part of a healthy brain lifestyle

Another factor to consider with this study is that people who eat greens every day are typically more conscious of their health. Someone who is taking the time to shop for and prepare greens every day is probably eating a healthier, whole foods diet and avoiding dementia-promoting junk foods, sodas, and sugars.

Exercise is the golden bullet to lasting brain health

People who eat healthier also tend to exercise more regularly, whether it’s just taking a daily walk or hitting the gym every day. Both strength training and aerobic exercise have been shown protect neuron health, ensure better blood flow to the brain, and protect the brain from the damaging proteins that cause Alzheimer’s.

One study that followed more than 600 people ages 70 and older found those who engaged in the most physical activity showed the least amount of brain shrinkage.

Another study found that older adults who walked as little as 30 to 45 minutes three days a week increased the volume of the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.

So although eating your greens is a great way to boost brain health (and gut health), if you eat your greens AND exercise every day, you drastically reduce your chances of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. Considering there is no cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s — the neurons that die in these conditions cannot be recovered — the best approach is a preventive one.

Ask my office for more details on lowering your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Dementia cases doubling–how to lower your risk

3 05 dementia doubling lower risk

The numbers of people with dementia are expected to more than double in 30 years and outpace both heart disease and cancer in terms of cost. Because dementia can take root in the brain years or decades before symptoms appear, you can take action now to avoid becoming part of this skyrocketing statistic.

Today, nearly 15 percent of people aged 71 or older have dementia—almost 4 million people. Experts predict that number will more than double to 9 million people by 2040, costing the country more than $500 billion.

What’s worse is these statistics do not include mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or “pre-dementia,” which accounts for another 22 percent of people over 71.

How to lower your risk of dementia

Some experts say there is no way to prevent dementia, but studies show diet and lifestyle influence brain health. We can use that knowledge to lower the risk for dementia.

For instance, poor diet and lifestyle choices can cause inflammation throughout the body, which ultimately inflames the brain and accelerates the degeneration of brain tissue. It may cause symptoms such as brain fog or a gradual decline in cognition, but the average person will not connect this with an increased risk of dementia later in life.

The good news is you can slow the rate of brain degeneration and lower your risk of dementia with the following tips:

  • Ditch the sugar, processed starchy foods, and junk foods. These foods lead to insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) and Type 2 diabetes. The link between a sugar-laden diet and brain degeneration is so strong some researchers call Alzheimer’s “Type 3 diabetes,” a totally diet and lifestyle driven disease. Sugars and processed starches and the insulin surges they create are devastating to brain health.
     
  • Avoid hydrogenated oils (trans fats) found in processed foods, pastries, and many restaurant fried foods. The brain is mostly fat and the fats you eat play a role in its health. Hydrogenated fats are more like plastic than food and research shows eating hydrogenated fats leads to loss of cognitive function and smaller brain volume, evidence of degeneration. Eat healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, and seafood, and get plenty of omega 3 essential fatty acids. Ask my office how you can do this to lower your risk of dementia.
     
  • Go gluten-free and ditch other food intolerances. Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity have been found to damage neurological tissue more than any other tissue in the body. Gluten causes brain inflammation in many people, which accelerates brain degeneration, increasing the risk of dementia. Find out through testing or an elimination diet whether you have intolerances to foods that could be triggering brain inflammation and degeneration.
     
  • Exercise your body and your brain. Exercise has been well documented as a way to boost brain health and lower your risk of dementia. You should engage in both aerobic exercise and weight training for ultimate dementia prevention. You should also exercise your brain with mentally stimulating activities, such as learning new things, reading, writing, playing chess, etc.

You need to be both a scholar and an athlete to prevent dementia

As Dr. Kharrazian says in his book Why Isn’t My Brain Working?, if you want to lower your risk of dementia and enjoy optimal brain health, you need to be both a scholar and an athlete. Ask my office for more ideas on how to boost your brain health and lower your risk of dementia.