This diet may reduce the risk of cognitive decline, even if you are already experiencing symptoms.

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a bowl of kale topped with parmesan

There are a host of additional health considerations that arise with age. One of the most notable is cognitive decline. While we all forget things from time to time, cognitive decline involves more than just temporary memory lapses. The sneaky symptoms of cognitive decline can include constant worry, a lack of ability to find words, and a feeling of indifference to things you used to love.

Cognitive decline is more common than you might think, affecting one in nine adults in the United States. Fortunately, there are several habits that can lower your risk, including being careful of what’s on your plate. A recent study looked at how diet can help reduce or even prevent symptoms of cognitive decline.

A recent study from Rush University Medical Center looked deeper into the causes of symptoms of cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia, and how diet can help. The focus of their study was the MIND diet, a fusion of the super healthy Mediterranean diet and DASH diet approaches, which aims to promote brain health. This eating pattern prioritizes whole grains, leafy greens, veggies, berries, nuts, and even a glass of wine every night. The MIND diet encourages beans, fish, and poultry to be the main protein, with red meat, butter, and processed foods being more limited.

The study followed 569 participants aged 65 and over from 1997 until their deaths. Each participant completed annual assessments and cognitive tests. In the development of Alzheimer’s disease, proteins can be deposited throughout the brain, which can interfere with problem solving and cognition. These protein deposits lead to the clinical manifestation of dementia and the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Once the researchers established cognitive health and protein deposits, they looked at the participants’ eating habits. Beginning in 2004, they added an annual food frequency questionnaire to assess adherence to a diet pattern of the MIND diet. They found that, regardless of Alzheimer’s diagnosis, the group with the most adherence to the MIND diet had the fewest symptoms of cognitive decline. This is called “cognitive resilience”.

What does that mean? And why is this important? Basically, the researchers found that a MIND diet can not only reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but can also reduce the symptoms people experience even after diagnosis. More research needs to be done to clarify the role of diet and protein deposits that dementia can leave in your brain, but this study is encouraging for those with symptoms of cognitive decline. To put it into practice, try our 1-Day Healthy Meal Plan to Boost Memory.


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