What you put in your stomach now affects your brain later – including your ability to think, remember and process information.
In a 25-year study of nearly 3,400 people ages 18 to 30, researchers found that those with slightly elevated blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels tended to have lower cognitive, thinking and reasoning abilities in their 40s and 50s.
“It’s amazing that as a young adult, mildly elevated cardiovascular risks seem to matter for your brain health later in life,” said Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a neuropsychiatrist, epidemiologist and professor at the University of California-San Francisco. It’s never too late to start your journey towards better brain health. Research has shown that the healthiest eaters at age 50 had a nearly 90 percent lower risk of dementia compared to those who had the least healthy diets.
You can help keep your brain sharp by following these American Heart Association dietary recommendations:
- Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all food groups.
- Limit salt, sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, saturated fats, trans fat, sodium and red meat.
- Eat lots of fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains.
- Consume low-fat (1 percent) and fat-free (skim) dairy products.
- Eat skinless poultry and fish.
- Eat nuts and legumes.
- If you drink, do so in moderation.
Two eating plans have proven to benefit brain health:
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet focuses on foods that are:
- Low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol
- High in fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods
- Whole grains
- Poultry, fish and nuts
- Low amounts of fats, red meats, sweets and sugared beverages
While Mediterranean dietary patterns vary around the world, common characteristics include:
- High consumption of fruits and vegetables
- Bread and other cereals
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
- Dairy products, fish, poultry and wine in low to moderate amounts
- Minimal red meat