Today, nearly 15% of people aged 71 or older have dementia, and this doesn’t include mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or “pre-dementia,” which accounts for another 22% of people over 71.
As if those numbers weren’t startling enough, the number of people with dementia is expected to more than double in 30 years. Because dementia can take root in the brain years or decades before symptoms appear, there’s action you can take now to avoid becoming part of this skyrocketing statistic.
While some experts say there is no way to prevent dementia, there are studies that show diet and lifestyle both influence brain health. For example, poor diet and lifestyle choices can cause inflammation throughout the body, which ultimately inflames the brain and accelerates the degeneration of brain tissue. This 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 that you can slow the rate of brain degeneration and lower your risk of dementia with the following tips.
Avoid trans fats. They shrink the brain, replace good fats in the brain, and restrict blood flow to the brain.
Hydrogenated oils (trans fats) are 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, which is evidence of degeneration. Eating healthy fats such as coconut oil, olive oil, and seafood, and getting plenty of omega-3 essential fatty acids is a much healthier option for your brain.
Ditch the sweets.
Eliminate 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 diet and lifestyle driven disease. Sugars and processed starches and the insulin surges they create are devastating to brain health.
The good news is that a diet high in vitamins B, C, D, and E, and omega-3 fatty acids protects the brain from shrinkage and decline. Aim for a brain-friendly diet that includes leafy green vegetables, seafood, eggs, olive oil, nuts, avocados, colorful fruits, nuts, and meats.
Consider going gluten-free and eliminating other food intolerances (i.e.: dairy). 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. 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.