What are we doing to unnecessarily age our bodies and minds? Let’s turn it around:
Paula Spencer Scott has penned over a dozen books on health and family, including “Surviving Alzheimer’s.” She admonishes her readers to stop thinking that there’s nothing you can do to prevent that disease. Instead, she suggests spending your time managing modifiable risk factors, like monitoring your blood pressure and choosing two strategic goals to accomplish daily. Know that the number one cause of cognitive decline is simply letting your brain decline! Avoid multitasking; take breaks; rest. Pay attention to getting restful sleep.
She continues that activities that best improve cognitive abilities should combine high engagement, mental challenge and enjoyableness.
The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, health professionals, scholars and policy experts from around the world who are working together on brain health.
The Council suggests practical tips that may seem obvious, but you should follow through and do them. Novelty is important to continually challenge the brain rather than falling into routine. As you change jobs, move or retire, find opportunities to try new forms of stimulation. Follow up on your true interests with someone else as a mentor or friend, as the social aspects can inspire and spur you on.
The GCBH advises you to choose activities involving both mental and physical engagement, such as dancing and tennis, which involve a combination of your mental and physical input. They also say to make it easy to stay engaged by choosing activities you genuinely like and will stay motivated to perfect.
Age Better Through a Better Diet
The MIND Diet by Maggie Moon is a scientific approach to enhancing brain function and simultaneously helping to prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia. This diet can slow the effects of brain aging by 7.5 years, according to a multi-year study published in 2015 in Alzheimer’s & Dementia. The Mediterranean and DASH diets had protective effects in the study, but the MIND diet had greater effects when followed for brain health before dementia symptoms manifest. Additionally, it benefited heart health, diabetes and overall nutrition.
The reason the MIND diet emphasizes eating more vegetables, especially green leafy types, is that they deliver folate, vitamin E, carotenoids and flavonoids, which have been shown to lower the risk of dementia and cognitive decline in lab tests.
The MIND diet recommends:
Whole grains: 3 or more servings per day
Green leafy vegetables: at least 6 servings per week (Commit to eating a salad every day)
Other vegetables: at least 1 per day, especially cruciferous like broccoli and cauliflower, rich in folate
Nuts: 5 servings per week
Beans: at least 3 servings per week
Berries: at least 2 servings per week
Poultry twice a week and fish once per week.
Wine: one glass per day
Use olive oil as your main cooking oil and add spices and herbs for flavor!
The MIND diet discourages:
Butter and stick margarine more than a tablespoon per day; pastries and sweets more than 5 servings per week; red meat more than 4 servings per week; cheese more than 1 serving per week; fried or fast food more than 1 serving per week.
For more information see:
“Surviving Alzheimer’s” by Paula Spencer Scott
“The MIND Diet” by Maggie Moon, RD