I can imagine that the last word you want to hear about in these times of trying to stay loyal to your New Year’s resolutions is the “D” word, or diet. That said, your diet can and does play an important role in brain health. I went to ALZ.org to learn more about diet and brain health, and what I found made a great deal of sense.

You may recall from a previous installment that I mentioned that the brain and the heart are both vascular organs, so what you’re doing that’s good for your heart and cardiovascular system is also good for your brain. Clearly, a heart-healthy diet benefits your brain and your body.

Although there is not a huge amount of research in the area of diet and cognitive funtion, the focus appears to be on two recommended diets. There’s the D.A.S.H. Diet, or “Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension,” and the Mediterrainean Diet. Both diets have been given credit for reducing heart disease, and as a result may be responsible for reducing dementia. So let’s take a look at these two diets and what makes them special.

The DASH diet is known to reduce your blood pressure, which is always a good thing under any circumstances. It recommends food low in saturated fats and total fats and suggests a diet high in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy.

The Mediterrainean Diet is a little more complicated, as it incorporates different principles of healthy eating that are tyically found in areas bordering the Mediterranian Sea. Now for those who didn’t master geography, that includes 22 countries, some of which you may have a tough time finding on a map. You’ll also notice some similarities with the DASH diet, as they recommend enjoying fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Along with that, they recommend replacing butter with olive oil, limiting your intake of red meat (everything in moderation), use herbs for flavor instead of salt, and make it a point to consume fish and poultry at least twice a week.

I’d love to be able to tell you that there was one super food or pill that we could all eat or take that would eliminate any chance that we develop dementia, but I can’t, because there isn’t one. It’s interesting to note, however, that eating foods like fish that contain fish oil or Omega 3 have consistently shown benefits, while many of the supplements and vitamins you may have been taking have mixed results as to their effectiveness.

There’s no shortage of books out there that can cover the do’s and don’ts of smart eating, but as always, before you begin this journey, consult with your family physician or a dietician to insure you get off on the right track. Taking the “do it yourself” approach to dieting can get you in trouble. Likewise be careful when it comes to supplements. I’ve seen these catalogs that offers these pills that make incredible claims, e.g. “We’ll clean out your arteries, improve your hearing, detox your liver” and on and on it goes. I have seen situations where a senior was taking a certain vitamin because they were told it would help them avoid sclerosis. If 400 units a day are good, then 1,000 units has to be even better right? WRONG. They had no idea that one of the charateristics of this vitamin was that it worked as a blood thinner.

Once again, I’ll refer you to the ALZ.org site for more information as well as to the AARP website (aarp.org) for more insight as well as some pretty good recipes. I’m not suggesting you incorporate an entire lifestyle change here, unless of course your diet consists of white sausage gravy for breakfast, double cheeseburgers for lunch and fried chicken for dinner seven days a week. As my wife says to me ... “make good choices.”

Questions? Email me at repe@careforcaregivers.org. Join the Journey.

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