Nutrition Tips to Keep Your Mind & Body Young
The human brain and body change with age. A young person’s physical appearance and cognitive function, such as reasoning, memory, attention and language, develops and grows over time. Unfortunately, certain aspects of cognitive function and physical health decline with age. If you are like most people, you would probably like to slow down the aging process to keep your mind and body young for as long as possible.
The aging process often begins sooner than most people expect. In fact, one study shows that a person’s ability to make quick decisions, remember unrelated facts and detect relationships between things peaks at about age 20 and starts to decline slowly at about age 27. Another study says that your strength, endurance and balance are already beginning to fade by the time you reach your 50s.
Fortunately, you can make certain lifestyle changes to slow the aging process and keep your mind and body strong. Exercise strengthens the muscles and, according to Harvard Medical School, may reduce the risk of cognitive impairment.
Nutrition Tips for a Young Mind and Body
Eat a low-calorie diet
Eating a low-calorie diet can help you lose weight and stay slim and maintaining a healthy weight can help you avoid many serious age-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Consider eating a Mediterranean-style diet
Harvard Medical School says that those who eat a Mediterranean-style diet are less likely to develop dementia and cognitive impairment. A Mediterranean-style diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and other unsaturated oils, and protein from plants.
Eat a low salt diet
Eating a diet that is low in salt, also known as a low sodium diet, can reduce your blood pressure. High blood pressure, or hypertension, increases your risk of cognitive decline and your risk of debilitating stroke, mini-strokes or TIAs and dementia, according to Mayo Clinic. Hypertension can also increase your risk for mild cognitive impairment and damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys and eyes in ways that make you feel old before your time.
Avoid excess sugar
Eating a sugar-filled diet can lead to diabetes, a condition in which your body has trouble processing the sugar you eat. Diabetes can cause a number of health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, the eye damage known as retinopathy, skin conditions and hearing impairment.
Diabetes is an important risk factor for developing certain cognitive problems, according to the American Diabetes Association. Specifically, diabetes is associated with problems with memory, the speed at which your brain processes information and executive functions, such as managing your time and paying attention. Mayo Clinic says that diabetes can even increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Go for foods that are low in cholesterol
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all foods that come from animals, such as red meat, poultry, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products. The cholesterol from these foods moves from your digestive tract into your bloodstream. This cholesterol is often packed with low-density lipoproteins (LDL), also known as “bad cholesterol.” High LDL cholesterol in your blood can drastically raise your risk of a heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease, according to the American Heart Association.
Avoiding foods that are high in dietary cholesterol can help you improve your blood cholesterol levels. In addition, eating certain other foods can help increase your HDL “good cholesterol,” which helps lower unhealthy LDL levels. These foods include olive oil, beans and legumes, whole grains, foods high in dietary fiber, fatty fish, flax, nuts and chia seeds.
Lowering your cholesterol levels through better nutrition may also lower your risk of dementia. The Alzheimer’s Society says there is evidence that suggests a relationship between having high blood cholesterols during mid-life and the development of dementia later in life.
Focus on brain foods
Prevention Magazine presents a number of studies that suggest certain foods can help maintain mental sharpness and prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other types of neurodegenerative conditions. One study by Rush University found that people who ate a serving or two of leafy greens each day had the cognitive abilities of someone 11 years younger who did not eat leafy greens. Arugula, in particular, is one of the most beneficial leafy greens because it is high in nitrates, which open up blood vessels to deliver blood to your brain. Arugula also lowers your blood pressure to keep your body young.
Blueberries contain flavonoids and antioxidants that may protect your brain from oxidative stress. These flavonoids and antioxidants can also strengthen your brain cells to keep your mind young.
Egg yolks contain choline, a B-complex vitamin that boosts brain health in ways that help maintain a youthful memory. Choline also allows your brain cells to communicate more effectively, which helps you reason through complex situations and make quick decisions.
Olive oil may help protect your memory and learning ability. Olive oil also helps you maintain healthy HDL levels, to help keep your heart and body feeling young.
Enjoy the fish
Certain seafood, especially salmon, contains the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. These fatty acids are essential for heart health and for brain health. Omega-3s reduce the oxidative stress and inflammation in the brain that may affect the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish may also help limit age-related brain shrinkage to help your mind remain young and nimble.
Cut down on alcohol
Alcohol affects nearly every organ of your body, including your heart, pancreas and immune system. Overconsumption of alcohol can damage your heart and cause high blood pressure, strokes and irregular heartbeats known as arrhythmias, for example. Drinking too much alcohol can also cause the stretching and drooping of heart muscles, known as cardiomyopathy. Alcohol consumption causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that could potentially lead to dangerous swelling of the blood vessels in that organ, a condition known as pancreatitis.
Because it is responsible for clearing alcohol and its associated toxins from your body, your liver is especially affected by alcohol consumption.
Alcohol also interferes with the communication pathways within your brain, and this interference can affect the way your brain works. The brain effects from alcohol use can change your mood and behavior. The neurological effects of alcohol use can also make it harder to think clearly and to move your body in a coordinated fashion. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that even mild-to-moderate drinking can adversely affect your cognitive functioning. If you do choose to drink, limit yourself to two alcoholic beverages a day.
Dine with friends
Having strong social ties can reduce your risk of dementia, according to Harvard Medical School, so feel free to enjoy healthy meals with friends and family. Socializing can also lower your blood pressure and increase your life expectancy.
Eat a well-balanced, well-prepared diet
While eating a well-balanced diet is important, eating a well-prepared diet may be even more important for a youthful mind and body. Food is only nutritious if you actually eat it, after all. Develop a go-to grocery list that includes your favorite brain and body foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat sources of protein and whole grains.
If you reside in a senior living community, let your director of dining services know that you are interested in eating foods that help keep your mind and body young. The Brielle offers a pub and country kitchen that invites relaxed socializing with fellow residents and guests. The Brielle also offers walking trails and a fully equipped therapy gym for physical exercise, a library that promotes lifelong learning, a lounge and card room for social interaction and a private dining room where you can enjoy your favorite foods that keep both your body and your mind young.