Diet and nutrition have long been known to affect your health way beyond just giving you basic nutrition. The role of food in the formation, treatment, and avoidance of disease is becoming increasingly well known. Diet is now known to be a huge factor in health, and you can use this to your advantage by eating well to reduce the chances of certain conditions from developing. Neurological health is one area in which eating certain foods or types of nutrients can help slow or stave off potential decline such as memory loss.
How Does Diet Affect My Neurology?
The mechanisms by which foods prevent neurological decline are becoming better understood, and they differ for each food or nutrient. In general, nutrients affect the actual structure of the brain, such as shoring up tissue and helping with blood flow, and that, in turn, facilitates better neurological health. Here’s a brief look at how certain nutrients help you stay sharp.
- Healthy oils and fats: Poly- and monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive oil, walnuts, and avocados, can lower the risk of depression while supporting healthy blood flow to the brain. Avocados, in particular, are excellent for blood-brain health; they can lower blood pressure, thus reducing one of the main factors that promote neurological decline.
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids: These fatty acids are found in many foods including flaxseed, but it’s the omega-3s in fatty fish and fish oil supplements that seem to have a beneficial effect on triglyceride levels. Lower triglyceride levels reduce your need to take statins. These cholesterol-lowering medications have neurological side effects including cognitive problems and sleep disruption, which itself can contribute to brain fogginess and additional cognitive issues. Omega-3s might not totally keep you off statins, but they sure can help.
- Polyphenols: These plant-based antioxidants, especially a class of polyphenols known as anthocyanins, are found in fruits such as red delicious apples and Concord grapes. These may be key players in preventing memory loss and helping to stop or slow decline in memory loss conditions such as dementia. They appear to promote healthy blood flow and strengthen synaptic connections.
- Antioxidants in general: These compounds that reduce damage to cells from oxidation may actually improve cognitive functioning. Animal studies have been successful in finding benefits from antioxidants; just be sure you try to get your fill from fruits and vegetables, and not supplements if you can help it.
- Coffee: Yes, your morning cup of joe can help you stay sharp, and not just from the caffeine jolt. Coffee may have beneficial effects regarding conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Right now the studies show a connection, which is not necessarily causation, but it’s still a promising link. Note that the amounts of coffee studied were simply considered to be moderate; the differences in brews and bean type may change the effects.
- Alcohol: No, you can’t get blitzed at the bar. Excessive alcohol use is not good for neurological health. However, light to moderate use, which is generally about one to two drinks for women and men respectively, per day, may reduce the risk of some stroke types.
If you are concerned about keeping your brain in the best shape possible, start now, no matter your age or health status. The team at Complete Neurological Care can help you work out a plan to stay as sharp as possible for as long as possible. Contact us to set up an appointment for an evaluation as soon as possible.