Mediterranean salad You have likely heard that genetics and overall health play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, but what about diet? Can certain foods slow the rapid loss of brain cells? In short, yes – but more indirectly than you may think.

Who Is at Risk for Dementia?

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the leading factors that contribute to dementia include age, the presence of risk genes and family history. Age is the greatest risk factor – most people with Alzheimer’s disease are over age 65 – while factors of heredity play a role too. While there are signs and symptoms to monitor, oftentimes the disease is not detected until it’s too late to reverse the effects.

Dementia Prevention Through Diet

Common dementia prevention techniques include keeping the mind active, not smoking, not drinking alcohol in excess and staying physically active. The development of certain diseases attributed to poor health can further increase your dementia risk.

Cardiovascular diseases like high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes develop and progress with what we put in our bodies. Diets that are high in sugar or salt and lack proper nutrients can lead to further health issues. According to research, what foods should we eat to help reduce dementia?

Traditional Mediterranean Staples

The Mediterranean Diet – which consists of fruit, vegetables and healthy oils – has been proven in clinical studies to reduce memory loss. This lifestyle emphasizes less red meat and processed foods in favor of:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  •  Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Lentils and other legumes

In a study conducted at the University of Louisiana’s College of Pharmacy, researchers determined that people in Mediterranean countries are seemingly less affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Another study out of St. Louis University also linked olive oil to improved brain function and decreased memory loss.

The MIND Diet

The Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) Diet combines elements from different nutrition plans to help enhance brain function and prevent the development of dementia. It identifies “brain healthy” food groups versus unhealthy ones. The healthy foods include:

  • Leafy greens rich in vitamins and nutrients – kale, spinach, broccoli and collards. The MIND Diet researchers recommend eating one salad a day!
  • Nuts with healthy fats, fiber and antioxidants. This snack can help lower bad cholesterol.
  • Berries – the MIND Diet does not endorse any other fruits.
  • Beans – they are high in fiber and protein, but low in calories and fat.
  • Whole grains – you do not have to eliminate bread or rice, but be sure to eat whole grain.
  • Omega-3-rich fish, like salmon and tuna.

MIND limits consumption or completely removes red meat, butter and margarine, cheese, pastries and fried foods from your diet.

While you do not have to adopt one of these diets tomorrow, it is important to adhere to the food pyramid, recommended by the USDA. Increase your plant intake, eat lean meats and replace your unhealthy snacks with fresh fruits and natural nuts.

Avon Health Center is a local resource for the aging community and their families. If you have further questions about dementia prevention, contact us today!