There are lifestyle habits that you can adopt to maintain or potentially improve your health as you age. These habits, spanning four categories — physical health and exercise, diet and nutrition, cognitive activity, and social engagement — can help keep your body and brain healthy and potentially reduce your risk of cognitive decline.
Research has suggested that combining good nutrition with mental, social and physical activities may have a greater benefit in maintaining or improving brain health than any single activity. A two-year clinical trial of older adults at risk for cognitive impairment showed that a combination of physical activity, nutritional guidance, cognitive training, social activities and management of heart health risk factors slowed cognitive decline.
Embrace lifestyle habits that improve your overall health, such as exercising, consuming a nutritious diet, and staying cognitively and socially active — science suggests these may support brain health as well. It’s never too late to make changes to achieve a healthier lifestyle — or too early to start.
Eating a heart-healthy diet benefits both your body and your brain. In general, this is a diet that is lower in saturated fats. Research in the area of the relationship between diet and cognitive functioning is somewhat limited, but it does point to the benefits of two diets in particular: the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet and the Mediterranean diet. These diets can help reduce heart disease and may also be able to reduce risk of dementia.
The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet aims to reduce blood pressure:
- Eat foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy.
- Consume whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts.
- Decrease your intake of fats, red meats, sweets, sugared beverages and sodium.
The Mediterranean diet incorporates different principles of healthy eating that are typically found in the areas bordering the Mediterranean Sea:
- Focus on fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains.
- Replace butter with healthy fats, like olive oil.
- Limit red meat.
- Use herbs to flavor food rather than salt.
- Eat fish and poultry at least twice a week.
Keep your heart healthy to help keep your brain healthy. Growing evidence suggests that many factors that increase the risk of heart disease also may increase the risk of dementia. These factors include smoking, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Check back in for more details on the last (but not least) way to keep your brain healthy: staying mentally and socially active.
For more information, contact Spring Arbor.