Combating Memory Loss

Don Beaver, Fitness Director

Dementia, the feared and ugly word that is also very misunderstood. So, let’s dive in to better understand what it is and how we might be able to “stiff arm” memory impairment.

A person with dementia has two or more of these specific declining factors: memory, reasoning, language, coordination, mood, and behavior. Further, it is estimated that two 2 out of 100 people ages 65 to 69 years old already have dementia, and that number will double every five years to where approximately 50% of those who are 85 years and older are affected with some form of dementia.

Alzheimer’s, a neurodegenerative disease, makes up nearly 70% of all dementia diagnoses, with women two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s than men. Now that we know these sobering statistics, what can we do to reduce the risk of dementia?

A number of factors contribute to memory loss—primarily, lifestyle, genetics, physical activity, and diet. This forum routinely touts the benefits of physical activity, so the remainder of this article will focus on how your diet—something you can control—plays a significant role in brain health. After all, the human brain uses more energy than any other organ—as much as 20% of our total energy!

* Berries are abundant in antioxidants which, in turn, reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. Think blueberries, blackberries, black currants, and strawberries.

* Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants as well as flavonoids that reduce the risk of cognitive decline and brain diseases.

* Oily fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are helpful for building membranes around brain cells and increasing blood flow to the brain. The best sources are found in mackerel, salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring.

* Whole grains are a great source of vitamin E, another antioxidant, which is linked to a reduction of memory-related disorders. Sources include whole-grain pasta/bread, oatmeal, bulgur wheat, brown rice, and barley.

* Coffee is primarily known for its caffeine, which assists with alertness and focus. However, caffeine also is full of antioxidants and boosts one’s capacity to process information and overall brain health.

* Nuts and seeds are also filled with omega-3s and antioxidants, including vitamin E. Top sources include almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds.

* Eggs contain vitamins B-6 and B-12 as well as folic acid, which are known to prevent shrinkage of the brain.

* Avocados bring monounsaturated fats to the table, which are known to reduce blood pressure and improve brain health.

* Broccoli and other leafy greens contain glucosinolates, flavonoids, vitamin K, and vitamin C, which serve to reduce stress and boost overall brain health. In addition to broccoli, think collards, kale, and spinach.

* Certain fruits rich in vitamin C prevent damage to brain cells. Top sources include kiwi, bell peppers, oranges, and strawberries.

* Turmeric is the deep-yellow spice in curry, which contains curcumin, which acts as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compound, benefitting memory.

Try a breakfast of eggs or oatmeal, whole grain bread, fresh fruit, and coffee. Lunch might be a leafy green salad with avocados and strawberries, while dinner could include grilled turmeric-seasoned salmon, brown rice, and sautéed spinach. Then treat yourself to a dessert consisting of berries, almonds, and some dark chocolate. Now that’s a realistic and brain-healthy meal plan … as we enjoy the journey!