Resolution #1 for 2011: Embrace a Healthy Diet That May Lower Odds of Alzheimer's

Dorian Martin Health Guide December 22, 2010
  • With Christmas just about here and 2011 right around the corner, we’re in that crazy, hectic time of the year when we’re all indulging. But, if you’re like me, you know that a fresh start -- and the time for those New Year’s resolutions -- is lurking just around the corner.


    So have you started thinking about your plans for the new year? Needless to say (since I’m writing this sharepost), I have. And mine involve doing a better job taking care of myself in order to decrease my chances of developing Alzheimer’s. How, you might ask? By recommitting myself to a healthy lifestyle and trying new things.

     

    So let’s start with the lifestyle part. In 2011, I want to become more vigilant in eating a healthy diet. Why is that important in relation to my battle against dementia? Well, according to a Columbia University study that was described in the September 2010 issue of More magazine, diet may have a role in helping to prevent Alzheimer’s. The Columbia researchers studied 2,148 Medicare recipients, none of whom had dementia when the study started. The participants ate whatever they wanted. Four years later, the researchers found that those participants who consumed more oil-and-vinegar salad dressings, nuts, fish, poultry, tomatoes, cruciferous vegetables, green leafy vegetables and fruit (and less high-fat dairy, red meat, organ meat, and butter) were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.


    Sounds promising? And there’s more research that suggests what you put on your plate may have an effect on the health of your brain. A healthy diet also bolsters “good” cholesterol, which Columbia researchers have found may prevent Alzheimer’s disease later in life. This Columbia University study found that people with the most high-density lipoprotein (HDL) were 60% less likely than people with the least amount of HDL to develop Alzheimer’s disease over four years. The study was recently published in the Archives of Neurology and reported by Bloomberg.com. Researchers believe that HDL may influence how plaque is cleared from the brain. Bloomberg.com quoted lead researcher Christiane Reitz as saying, “Even at the age of 65, the higher the good cholesterol, the lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.” This particular four-year study followed 1,130 Medicare recipients who were at least 65 years old and who did not have memory problems.


    So what should you eat to improve your HDL cholesterol? The Mayo Clinic website reports, “A healthy diet includes some fat, but there's a limit. In a heart-healthy diet, between 25 and 35 percent of your total daily calories can come from fat — but saturated fat should account for less than 7 percent of your total daily calories. Avoid foods that contain saturated and trans fats, which raise LDL cholesterol and damage your blood vessels.  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — found in olive, peanut and canola oils — tend to improve HDL's anti-inflammatory abilities. Nuts, fish and other foods containing omega-3 fatty acids are other good choices for improving your LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio.”


  • Sound familiar? It turns out that the foods that increase HDL mirror the choices made by the participants who did not develop Alzheimer’s in the study I mentioned earlier in this sharepost. So I want to make sure during 2011 that I get to the point where I automatically reach for the oil and vinegar, instead of the high-fat salad dressing. I want to fill my plate with lots of different vegetables, and avoid having a large helping of macaroni-and-cheese. And I want to get in the habit of snacking on nuts instead of tortilla chips.


    Next week, I’ll share with you the other lifestyle changes that I want to make. So what resolutions related to Alzheimer's are you making as you enter 2011?