Memory loss, Alzheimer's, dementia. As we age, these words grow to become more and more terrifying. They can also bring sadness, pain, and suffering. This is one road we don't want to take.
What can we do to help avoid this decline? Modern medicine and science have conducted much research in this area but they don't promise a cure-all. There is no conclusive evidence that explains why this happens and how we can prevent it. However, there have been positive findings that bring hope.
Food and diet have been linked to assisting cognitive health. Foods that contain high amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, anti-inflammatory properties, and Omega-3 fatty acids have shown potential to help. Some of these foods include leafy greens like spinach and kale. Avocados, fermented foods, and even dark chocolate are supposed to be good too. And of course, nuts are high on the list too. Almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are naturally loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Walnuts are a great choice for Omega-3's. Plus, nuts are a major component in a Mediterranean diet, which is recommended for good health and cognitive benefits.
It's not just food that helps. Physical exercise is always important. There is no substitute here. Challenging our brains with cognitive exercises helps too. Exploring new places through travel, picking up new hobbies, and listening to music are all good things to do. Playing an instrument may be even better, and we've read that even changing your route for your daily routines can do some good.
There are also some foods and drinks that can hurt your memory and weaken your focus. Added sugars like soda and baked goods are bad. Fried foods are not good for you either. Bread, pastas, and refined flour, even though they're delicious, are not helping you either. More recent research suggests that coffee could be bad for you too. Thankfully, only in large amounts, which is 6 or more cups a day. Phew! Some of us don't drink coffee when we get up, we get just so we can drink coffee. = ) The worst drink of all is alcohol. Researchers agree that heavy drinkers impair their ability to form long-term memories and are more likely to develop cognitive decline. Heavy drinking is defined as more than 14 per week for men and 7 per week for women.
Again, nothing is for certain. Studies are on-going and current evidence links to certain results but is not conclusive. There is no magic medicine that cures or even stops cognitive decline. However, Exercise and diet are always important. If not for your brain then at least for your body. Every bit can only help.
There is some good news! Researchers do agree moderation is the key. It's OK to have a Coke or a slice of cake. Go enjoy a nice wine over a pasta dinner with family and friends. Drink some coffee with that yummy donut. Live a little! Just be mindful that all that living can add up over time. If it's a daily habit, switch it to weekly, and if it's weekly, maybe change it to monthly. We believe that what we eat and what do today is an investment towards how our mind and body will feel tomorrow.
Another interesting idea we took away from all these articles and experts is the idea of how stress and anxiety play a role in our long-term mental health. Too much coffee and we get jittery, anxious. We can't sleep well to relieve our minds from the daily mental strain. This is the same with alcohol. Sugars also cause depression when our bodies get used to it and we suddenly take it away. Does stress and anxiety lead to Alzheimer's and dementia? On the other hand, exercise helps with oxygen flow and sleep. Good diets bring vitamins and minerals that aid our physical and mental functions. These are all good things to keep our stress levels in check. But if we deny ourselves of simple pleasures, we can get overworked and stressed too. Life would be restrictive and confined. Our take? Keep stress down and make healthy choices. That's how we're going to enjoy this ride. =)
A few good reads: