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Posts Tagged ‘dementia’

As we push beyond the 40-year mark, we detect slight physical changes. Maybe eyesight isn’t as keen. We have difficulty keeping up with that two-year old grandchild, or even our teenager. What other changes draw our attention? Along with our bodies reminding us of creeping age, our brains no longer function as we would like. We notice subtle decreases in our ability to recall names of people or events. Maybe forgetting a friend’s name is far into the future, but for many, by the time 50 rolls around, remembering facts and faces could require more effort.

The 60s may send attacks of panic as we go from room-to-room and wonder why we are there. While memory losses occur with advancing years, many can be slowed and become less frequent. What can we do?

Someone recently asked me if any foods are directly related to health or disease conditions. Well, yes. Let’s start with memory (See “Part 1: Can Diet Affect Memory?” and “What’s On Your Mind?”).

An article published in Neurology on December 20, 2017 reported the effect of green leafy vegetables on the aging brain. Researchers found that one serving daily of green leafy vegetables helped slow cognitive decline―that’s thinking and remembering. For the approximately 1,000 participants over a period of almost five years, that lone serving was equivalent to being eleven years younger mentally compared to those who rarely or never ate their spinach or similar greens. However, eating greens does not guarantee slower brain aging, but it does suggest an association between the two.

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And what are the best choices? Spinach, kale, and collards seem to top the list. As a side note, if you have a yard, kale grows easily among flowers or shrubs. The curly type adds a nice touch to the landscape. Kale prefers a sunny location. Generally, plants die down during the hot summer season but revive in the fall to produce until frost. If you live in an apartment, try sowing seeds in planters or pots. You can enjoy this healthy food for salads or cooked as a vegetable serving. It’s great mixed with other types of greens or in many entrees.

Growing your own kale gives you the option of omitting pesticides and harmful chemicals. To harvest, clip or pinch stems close to the base of the plant. Within several days or a week, new leaves will produce enough for another harvest. While other green leafy vegetables are good, I find kale the easiest to grow. Before using wash thoroughly and remove any thick stems. Store in the refrigerator in a covered plastic container (not bag) for a few days. To leave in the refrigerator longer, place in a covered container and wait until ready to use before washing. This food is not only rich in antioxidants to help the brain, it is also high in vitamin A and other nutrients that are part of a healthy diet.

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While green leafy vegetables aren’t the only foods to thwart aging brains, it is one easy way. Try adding to your diet, regardless of your age. It’s worSee the source imageth a try.

 

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News reports and advertising alert us to the connection between many types of foods and health. Most recognize that too much sodium (salt) may increase blood pressure. We know that obesity may make us more susceptible to many health conditions including type 2 diabetes and cancer. Certain types of fats have been linked to heart disease. We don’t hear as much about the effect of foods on our brains. Do certain diets make a difference? For the next few weeks, I will share current research on the impact of what we eat and memory.

As we age, every little slip in remembering someone’s name or misplacing our car keys may stir fear and panic. While a few blunders here and there may be no cause for worry about developing dementia, or worse, full-blown Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), memory loss is real. More than five million Americans now live with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), a common form of dementia. What if certain foods or diets could make a difference? Would we pay attention? For several years, research has sought answers. We now know that the foods we eat can make a difference.

Dr. Lisa Moscone, author of Brain Food, compared brain imaging scans of healthy dementia-free 30- to 60-year-olds. One group ate the typical Western diet of high saturated fats, red meat, and refined sugar. The other group followed a Mediterranean diet which consisted of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein such as fish or chicken. Good fats (mono- or poly unsaturated) like avocado and olive oil replaced saturated fats, and the diet limited red meats and added sugars. Scans at the beginning of the study showed that those who ate Western-style foods had more beta-amyloid deposits and less brain activity, both indicators of early development of dementia.

Follow-up studies two or more years later revealed increases in beta-amyloid deposits and reduced active energy levels in those who ate Western diets, regardless of other potential risk factors for AD, i.e. sex, age, and a specific gene linked to AD. Changes in brain scan images showed up in areas of the brain most likely to be affected by AD.

What does this study tell us? Diet does make a difference. What is more important, to modify our diet in younger years with the potential of improved memory in later years or eat what we want, a Western diet, and wonder why we are so forgetful? Is our priority to eat whatever we want with no regard for the future or had we rather make a few changes to improve our odds of reaching old age with our brains mentally intact? Alzheimer’s Disease is a devastating condition. Even if we aren’t concerned about our future mental health, is it fair to our potential caregivers―children, spouses or friends―not to take care of ourselves? Diet may not prevent all memory loss, but it can make a difference for us and our families.

 

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I am a longtime hot tea fan. For decades, anytime has been tea time for me. While others order a different favorite brew, as I do occasionally, I prefer black tea. Now comes evidence of my reward for my beverage choice. As little as one cup per day may improve health.

Tea contains flavonoids which have antioxidant properties. Flavonoids come from a broad category of non-nutritive phytochemicals found only in plants. These substances help to maintain health in varied ways. Other familiar phytochemicals include carotenoids, isoflavones, phenolic acids, and many more. It is estimated that hundreds of phytochemicals are yet to be identified. Tea has one of the highest concentrations of flavonoids of any plant. The type and amount in tea varies depending on several factors.

While antioxidants are in a different category, some phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, meaning they can help prevent or delay damage to cells and tissues. Antioxidants are found in both plant and animal sources.

Green tea has more of the flavonoid called catechins. Black tea, which has been fermented or oxidized, contains more of the flavonoids theaflavins and thearubigins. Both are water-soluble and readily absorbed into the body. For maximum concentration of flavonoids, steep tea for at least one minute. The longer the brew time, the higher the concentration of flavonoids and increased health benefits.

How is tea effective in health promotion? Research shows several conditions affected by flavonoids and perhaps other unidentified phytochemicals.

  • Heart disease: Tea drinkers may be more than one-third less likely to have a heart attack. Calcium deposits are linked to heart disease and other cardiovascular events. Buildup of these deposits, associated with plaque development in coronary arteries, is less in those who drink tea.
  • Dementia: Older adults with high levels of calcium plaques in their arteries are more likely to develop dementia earlier than those without calcium buildup. As in heart disease, tea seems to decrease the accumulation.
  • Neurological conditions: Antioxidants in tea have possible neuroprotective agents and may prove to reduce risks for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Other diseases: Researchers have found favorable, but not conclusive, evidence of lower risks of skin disease, cancer, excessive weight, and other maladies in tea drinkers.

But is it the tea or something else? Although researchers have not found a direct relationship, tea drinkers tend to live healthier lifestyles. Whatever current and future findings, tea is a wholesome, inexpensive drink that contributes to a healthy diet.

Drink up!

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When it comes to dying, most of us want to live as long as possible. However, one thing that bothers us as we grow older is memory loss. Aging diminishes cognitive skills in everyone. Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increase in the elderly. Many issues may impact brain function, but diet is a leading cause we can alter. The good news is, eating certain foods makes a difference in how well we will think and remember in old age.

The journal, Neurology, reported on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In a study of 17,000 men and women with an average age of 64, those who followed the Mediterranean diet were less likely to develop thinking and memory problems. However, the same wasn’t true of those with diabetes.

Epidemiology published a review of twelve research studies. In nine studies, those who followed the Mediterranean diet had better mental function with lower rates of cognitive decline and reduced risks for Alzheimer’s disease.

What is the Mediterranean diet? Unlike other diets that tell you what to eat and what to avoid, the Mediterranean diet is a pattern for eating. Its name originated from the sixteen plus countries in the region of the Mediterranean Sea where certain foods are plentiful. Residents in the area seem less prone to many common diseases that plague Americans.

The Mediterranean plan is mostly a matter of switching certain types food for a different choice. The diet uses generous portions of fruits and vegetables as well as bread, cereals, beans, nuts and seeds. Olive oil is an important part of the diet with limited amounts of saturated fats and trans fats. Those who follow the Mediterranean plan eat very few red meats and consumed dairy products, fish and poultry  in low to moderate amounts.

While some studies found that the Ornish and Pritikin diets, both extremely low in fat, gave similar results, the Mediterranean diet has proven beneficial in improving or maintaining cognitive function.

One thing is certain. There are no definite treatments for dementia. Your best bet is prevention. To keep from losing your mind, reduce the onset of symptoms through adequate physical and mental exercise and eat more foods found in the Mediterranean dietary pattern.

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