Dementia is quickly becoming one of the biggest problems facing Americans. For example, Alzheimer’s, one of many dementia-related diseases, affects one in every eight Americans over the age of 65. Unfortunately, above the age of 85, the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s jumps to 50%! As the baby-boomer generation ages, there will be a record number of Americans dealing with dementia.
Unlike other issues that come with age, dementia is treatable but incurable. However, recent developments in the fields of neuroscience and nutrition have shown that we may be able to avoid the issue altogether.
The Popular Approach
Modern medicine holds that we should control the symptoms of dementia rather than try and treat the root cause. This is something Western medicine has been criticized over for decades, if not longer. The problem? Even the best dementia medications do little to slow the disease, and the effects of each medication vary in their efficacy.
Take donepezil, the generic form of Aricept, for example: this drug was developed with the purpose of slowing Alzheimer’s degenerative effects on the mind. However, how long the medication lasts, assuming it works at all, varies from patient to patient. Couple that with the fact that many medications of this type cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, and sudden weight loss, you’re left with a solution that may cause more harm than good.
The Best Approach
If you’re one of many people who don’t find useless medications appealing, then recent studies should bring you some hope. According to the University of Eastern Finland, our diets have a direct impact on whether or not we will develop dementia. Study participants maintaining the healthiest diets were found to be 90% less likely to develop many forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
For many, the findings might not be all that surprising. Watching your nutrition and eating a healthful diet has long been linked to effectively combating obesity, cancer, and a slew of other health conditions. That being said, this is the first study to show any concrete correlation between dementia and nutrition.
So, What Should We Eat?
While the findings are still too recent for medical professional to recommend any specific diet that can definitively help fight off dementia, there are a number of food types that you should aim to eat more of:
Fruits and Veggies
In the University of Finland’s study, the participants that were best able to fight off dementia were those who had a high amount of fruits, vegetables, and fish in their diet — in other words, foods that are devoid of added sugars, trans fats, and other chemicals that processed food is known for.
Everything from berries to tomatoes to edible flowers can be eaten to gain these benefits. You might be surprised to see flowers in that lineup, but F. Tillona Strowridge writes in A Feast of Flowers that eating flower stems has been a healthful part of many cultures’ cuisines for centuries.
Foods with Healthy Fats
Americans are conditioned to believe that fat is the root of all evils when it comes to our dietary problems. However, as any nutritionist will tell you, there are good fats, like those found in olive oil and salmon, and bad fats, like those stuffed into deep-fried potato chips. A study by the Columbia University Medical Center found that a diet high in those good fats, known as Omega-3 fatty acids, can actually go a long way in protecting our brains from the onset of dementia.
It’s interesting that after decades of thinking solutions formulated in a lab will be the panacea we’ve been searching for, it’s actually natural, traditional solutions that prove to be the most effective. While the evidence is too preliminary to suggest diet will be the solution we’ve been looking for, by focusing on your diet, instead of on your pillbox, your chances of avoiding the horrors of dementia are much better.