Dementia: A healthy diet 'not as strong' as three other factors to prevent the disease


While healthy eating is part of a protective armour for the brain against dementia, the evidence is “not as strong” as it is for three other interventions. The National Institute on Ageing (NIH) suggested that physical activity, blood pressure and cognitive training have more influence over whether a person develops dementia or not. A recent review of research – led by a committee of experts – found “encouraging” evidence for those three interventions to prevent or delay dementia.

While the evidence is by no means conclusive, the review – put together by experts at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) – was published.

In the report, evidence for medications and diet in delaying or preventing dementia was “not as strong” as exercise, blood pressure control, and cognitive training.

Exercise

While “there’s not enough evidence” to recommend exercise as a way to prevent dementia, it is associated with many health benefits.

Animal and human observational studies have shown an association between exercise and fewer plaques and tangles in the brain.

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Exercise has also been connected to better performance on certain cognitive tests.

Blood pressure

Controlling blood pressure is known to reduce a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee did conclude that managing high blood pressure “might prevent or delay Alzheimer’s dementia”.

Such a connection was particularly strong for those who effectively managed their blood pressure in middle age.

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Numerous research studies have pointed towards a link between high blood pressure, cerebrovascular disease, and dementia.

Cognitive training

“Cognitive training involves structured activities designed to enhance memory, reasoning, and speed of processing,” the National Institute of Ageing clarified.

Long-term observational studies suggest that reading or playing games may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s-related cognitive impairment.

Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “There are steps we can take to look after our brain health and to reduce our risk of dementia.

“Research has shown that our health in our 30s, 40s and 50s can have a particularly large impact on our dementia risk.”

For a healthy brain, it’s important not to smoke or drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

“Be active daily and exercise regularly,” Alzheimer’s UK recommended.

You can also mitigate your risk of developing dementia by maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

“Being physically active can also help you to maintain a healthy weight, reducing your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease which are also risk factors for dementia,” Alzheimer’s UK pointed out.

Another way to reduce your dementia risk is to “keep cholesterol and blood pressure under control”.

Both of these health conditions can be managed by diet and exercise.

Thus, the earlier you form healthy habits, the better chances you have of avoiding dementia.



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