What Is Cognitive Decline or Impairment
Cognitive decline is when a person’s everyday life is affected by issues related to memory, such as trouble remembering, concentrating, learning new things, thinking and making judgement or decisions. Cognitive impairment can be measured from mild to severe.
Dementia Preventive Measures
At present, there is no cure for dementia. Therefore, strategies to prevent oneself from getting cognitive impairment through lifestyle and diet changes are essential.
Studies show that these preventive measures may help prevent cognitive impairment:
- Mental stimulation with puzzles and games, learning to play a musical instrument or use a new electrical gadget or learning a new language.
- Avoid the use of excessive alcohol.
- Take special care to prevent falls, which may lead to injury to the head.
- Quit smoking.
- Get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep.
- Ensure health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and depression are managed well.
- Eat a nutrient-rich diet that has plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables.
- Be socially active.
- Get regular exercise at a moderate to vigorous intensity.
- Go easy on foods high in saturated and trans fats.
Antioxidants, Oxidative Stress And Cognitive Decline
The development of age-related diseases is strongly linked to oxidative stress. New research evidence has found that antioxidants have the ability to control the autoxidation by interrupting the propagation of free radicals or by inhibiting the formation of free radicals, thereby reducing oxidative stress, improving immune system, and promoting better physical and mental health.
Oxidative stress is one of the causes for age-related cognitive decline and eventually dementia, which affects a person’s memory, thinking, and reasoning abilities.
Fruits, vegetables and tubers, such as strawberries, blueberries, oranges, papayas, peaches, peppers and sweet potatoes contain naturally bright and vibrant colours, thanks to plant chemicals known as flavonoids. These phytochemicals are bursting with powerful antioxidant properties, which have raised hopes that they could reduce oxidative stress in the brain.
A large-scale study discovered a connection between consumption of foods high in antioxidants called flavonoids and a remarkably reduced risk of experiencing early signs of cognitive decline.
The highest concentration of antioxidants is found in the most deeply or brightly coloured fruits, vegetables and tubers. Antioxidants are also found in whole grains, tea (especially green tea), nuts such as pecans and walnuts, seeds such as chia seeds and sunflower seeds, dark chocolate and red wine. For good health, red wine should be limited.
Backed By Research
In a new study that followed almost 80,000 middle-aged individuals for more than 20 years, it was found that those who consumed the most flavonoids were less susceptible to experience early signs of cognitive impairment later in life.
Even after adjustment for other risk factors, such as physical exercise, it was found that those who ate the most flavonoids in their diet were 20% less likely to develop subjective cognitive decline vs. those who ate the least. The research can be found in the journal Neurology.
According to a senior author from the Harvard University in Boston, MA, there is mounting evidence indicating that flavonoids are powerhouses when it comes to preventing your thinking skills from declining with age.
Research has shown that those protective relationships from colourful foods were effective whether people were consuming the flavonoids in their diet 20 years ago or if they started incorporating them only recently.
Researchers from the University of Virginia found that cognitive decline not only affects elderly adults – it actually starts to kick in relatively early in adulthood, at age 27. The research discovered that some form of age-related cognitive decline begin in healthy, educated adults when they are in their 20s and 30s. The findings can be found in the scientific journal Neurobiology of Aging.
There is extensive long-term evidence on the safety and additional benefits of these foods on a person’s brain health. Besides promoting healthy brain function, these colourful foods are anti-inflammatory, strengthen your immune system, support eye health and may help lower risk of heart disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.
It is never too late to start adding more colours to your plate at every meal. Paint your plate with the colours of the rainbow and try to choose foods in these colours every day. You can have an orange, papaya or sweet potato for breakfast, red peppers, pumpkin or green leafy vegetables for lunch and throw in some carrots and purple cabbage for dinner. Don’t forget your healthy proteins too.
In addition to a healthy diet, your other lifestyle factors are equally important to stave off cognitive decline, such as staying physically active, getting sufficient sleep, exercise regularly and give your brain a good workout by doing things that challenge your mind. Take steps as early as possible to reduce your risks for cognitive decline. Nothing matters more to you than the health of your brain as it is a critical piece of your overall health.
Health Freak Mommy is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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