Here’s something you may not know: 5.2 million people across this country have dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.
We don’t know what causes it and we don’t know how to stop it. But, there are things that probably can help us prevent this brain killing disease. There is increasing evidence that a Mediterranean diet can protect us. A recent Johns Hopkins Health Alert reports on two separate studies that suggest that this diet can protect against cognitive decline. This is not a weight loss come-on. It’s serious science.
The first study, reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that emphasis on plant based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, grains, and fish with limited full-fat dairy and meat protected against cognitive impairment, particularly Alzheimer’s Disease. The Alert reports that even people who adhered moderately to this kind of diet had protective effects from it.
The second study, reported in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry looked at a comparison of two groups of people in their 70s. One group followed the Mediterranean diet and the other followed a low fat diet. We’ve been told that low-fat diets are best for some time. But they may not be best for prevention of Alzheimer’s.
After six years, those who followed a Mediterranean diet scored significantly higher on standardized cognitive tests than those who followed the low-fat diet. Those who scored higher were also less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
These two studies are not the first to suggest that a plant based diet with limited red meat, limited animal fat and lots of fruits and vegetables can ward off Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementias.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S. There are now multiple studies that show the same results as those recently reported in the Health Alert from Johns Hopkins. If you notice what studies show about how to prevent the other biggest killers in our country, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer, they say almost exactly the same thing: eat a lot of fruits and veggies, little meat, more fish and stick to plant sources of fat, such as nuts and olive oil instead of animal fat.
We hear this same information all the time about how to prevent disease and live longer. We know what’s good for us. We’re maybe just too unwilling to change. The fast food industry is thriving. And most of it is exactly what we’re NOT supposed to eat: red meat, refined white flour, fried food and few if any vegetables. I’m not a fast food fan at all but when there’s little choice, like being on the road, at least some of the chains offer salads and an occasional healthier option than a burger and fries.
So here’s the challenge.
Do you have an aging parent with dementia or know someone who does? Do you want to be like that? Do you want to be that kind of burden to your loved ones? If not, make a promise to yourself. Start small and you’re starting prevention now. Change one thing in your daily eating habits by taking out something that is not good for you. (Soda? A serving of red meat? Fries?) And add in one good thing ( an apple, an orange a green salad) every day. First steps count! Maybe you’ll progress to more than one if you set your mind to it.
We’re advocates for healthy aging at AgingParents.com. We want you to do better than any impaired elders in your life. It’s not too early or late to improve the way you eat, no matter what age you are.
And may you live a long and healthy life, dementia free.