Every brain changes with age. As a result, changes in cognition and mental function can begin to appear. But that doesn’t mean you—or a loved one—is destined to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. There are several foods for brain health and simple lifestyle changes that promote long-term brain health.
Here’s what you can do at any age to sidestep age-related memory loss and cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer's disease.
All day, neurons and dendrites in the gray matter of the brain are wiring and firing away. “This creates toxic waste that builds up in the brain in the form of amyloid proteins,” says Leigh E Richardson, LPC, NCC, BCN, BCB, founder & clinical director of the Brain Performance Center 2. The only time the “cleaning” cells can come out and clear the waste is when you are asleep. “Research shows that the first stage of developing Alzheimer’s is linked to your quality of sleep, not quantity,” says Richardson.
When natural sleep occurs, the brain can repair and rejuvenate from the hard days work. Whereas sleep while under the effect of medication is chemically induced and does not have the same restorative effect on the brain, says Richardson. “To facilitate natural sleep, develop a sleep routine that fits your schedule and follow it,” she explains. “It starts with consistently going to sleep at the same time every night without blue light from either a cell phone or television screen.”
Watch your weight
A Tel Aviv University study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease says having insulin resistance caused in part by obesity and physical inactivity can lead to a more rapid decline in cognitive performance.3
Insulin resistance is commonly associated with having diabetes; however, the research says both diabetic and non-diabetic subjects with insulin resistance experienced accelerated cognitive decline in executive function and memory.
To improve your brain power, the researchers suggest preventing or treating insulin resistance by maintaining a balanced and healthy diet and watching your weight.
Resveratrol, the potent phytonutrient found in the skins and seeds of grapes and also in blueberries, raspberries and mulberries, has been linked to the breakdown of beta-amyloid plaques, lesions found in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. 4
Adding these fruits to your diet can help increase the amount of resveratrol you consume. You can also take supplements to promote long-term brain health. The suggested dose of resveratrol is 100 mg once or twice a day, taken with meals.
Fill up your cup
Research from the University of Singapore says a cup of tea a day reduces the risk of cognitive impairment by 50 percent and as much as 86 percent for those who are genetically at risk of Alzheimer's. 1
And no need to be fussy about flavor. The researchers found the neuroprotective role of tea consumption on cognitive function is not limited to a particular type of tea; however, the beverage must be brewed from tea leaves, such as green, black or oolong tea.
The study says the long-term brain health benefit of tea consumption is connected to bioactive compounds in tea leaves such as catechins, theaflavins, thearubigins and L-theanine. These all have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant potential believed to protect the brain from vascular damage and neurodegeneration.
Look to the sea
Eating a meal of seafood or other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids at least once a week has been linked to promoting brain health and protecting against age-related memory loss and thinking problems by a team of researchers at Rush University Medical Center. 5
Those who ate a meal of shrimp, lobster and crab; fish sticks, fish cakes and fish sandwiches; fresh fish as a main dish; or tuna sandwiches at least twice per week demonstrated slower rates of cognitive decline in a series of tasks that required recall and observation.
It is believed that eating seafood is good for brain health because it is good source of a type of omega-3 fatty acid that is the main structural component of the brain.
Bite into berries
Blueberries and strawberries are foods high in the flavonoid anthocyanins, a compound found in plants that generally have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This, and other flavonoids found in the fruit, are believed to be useful for promoting brain health, according to a recent study published in Annals of Neurology, a journal of the American Neurological Association and Child Neurology Society. 6 The data suggests cognitive aging in women could be delayed by up to 2.5 years just by consuming these berries daily. A greater intake and total of flavonoids was also associated with reduced cognitive degeneration making these finger foods a tasty way to improve your brain power.
- Interview with Leigh E Richardson