Today, Alzheimer’s Disease and all related dementia illnesses affect over 5.4 million Americans, and this number is growing rapidly. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, by 2050 the number will grow to over 16 million. And while most affected are over 65, a condition called early Alzheimer’s also affects more and more people in their 40’s and 50’s.
The good news is that researchers are learning more about the link between what we eat and our ability to avoid Alzheimer’s later in life. By embracing a healthy “brain” diet, we increase our chance of enjoying the benefits of good health as we age.
US Family Health Plan – a TRICARE Prime health program -- wants all of our members to establish foundation of brain health that will support them throughout their entire life. So today, we are sharing the top 7 foods that researchers have shown to demonstrably lower risk the of dementia or Alzheimer’s.
- Strawberries, blueberries, and acai fruit all support cognitive health. Choosing to eat an assortment of berries in your everyday diet can help slow cognitive decline as we age. Conversely, a poor diet lacking in fresh fruit and vegetables can actually speed up cognitive decline. Berries can be sprinkled over cereal, in yogurt, or in salad during any meal in the day. And we believe this is a “berry” good way to combine good eating with good health.
- Coffee says no to dementia. Caffeine found, in both coffee and tea, can benefit the brain’s cognitive function in a very unique way. It can help significantly lower the risk of progression from mild cognitive impairment into full blown dementia. Most people suffer some sort of cognitive decline over the course of a lifetime – and some more than others. However, when you drink just one cup of coffee a day, this normal decline in proper brain functioning can be slowed down or eliminated. Get yourself a nice hot cup.
- Apples provide nutrients that can reverse memory loss. Ben Franklin said it best. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” And we think he may have been referring to the Alzheimer’s disease specialist. Research now shows that apple juice can actually reverse memory loss in mice. And many of these findings translate well to human beings. Apples were found to protect your brain from the buildup of beta amyloid protein, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. So take a big bite out of the chance of getting dementia by eating apples as often as possible
- Nuts can even help people with Alzheimer’s combat memory loss. Several studies now connect higher nut consumption to a lower risk of dementia. Research shows that eating nuts promises improved memory and recall in people whose cognitive functioning is normal. Imagine your brain functioning at its peak. And more importantly, research has even shown that nuts also may play a role in the improvement of memory in those who already have Alzheimer's disease. That’s nutty, isn’t it?
- Fish is the official food for the brain. The omega 3 fatty acids found in certain types of fish, like salmon or sardines, are a proven benefit to your brain’s health. Incorporating broiled, steamed or baked fish into your diet on a regular basis is one of your best defenses against dementia.
- Cinnamon boosts the brain’s functioning. Multiple research studies show eating cinnamon helps destroy harmful protein build up in the brain. This protein buildup over time has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Cinnamon has also been shown to improve memory and other cognitive functioning -- at any stage in life. Add a little cinnamon to your coffee every day, and now you have a winning combination to support healthy brain function over a lifetime.
- Cumin/Turmeric. If you like your food hot and spicy (like me) then meet your two new friends – cumin and turmeric. These two tasty spices, added to food in healthy doses, can help prevent cognitive decline and fight existing dementia. Think chili for cumin and curry for Turmeric. India, a country that embraces curries made with high amounts of turmeric, has one of the lowest incidences of Alzheimer’s in the world. So if you happen to like Indian food, learn to batch cook it on a regular basis or just skip out to your neighborhood Indian restaurant for a good brain boost.
So as we like to say at US Family Health Plan – build up your defense arsenal for the brain by eating a diet that includes these power foods every day. And it doesn’t hurt to add a good dose of healthy veggies into the mix as well. If you start to experience the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. Eating is never a substitute for good medical treatment. But it eating well can help in the battle to avert a diagnosis of dementia, then make sure you maintain a healthy diet throughout your life.