Avoid temptations to maintain a healthy brain
Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Sugar, carbs and alcohol are not good for the brain. Thankfully, the biggest season for this trio — winter holidays such as Christmas and New Year's — is behind us. And having just been through the food and alcohol festivities associated with the Super Bowl, it is time to take a closer look at the consequences.
Sugar consumption may predispose us to problems with dementia in later life. A new study looked at data from 5,189 people in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and their baseline associated measures of glycated hemoglobin and risks later in life.
Researchers found that memory, executive functions and orientation rates showed evidence of cognitive decline and were associated with increases in glycated hemoglobin levels and diabetes. There is indication that maintaining optimal glucose levels may be beneficial to preventing cognitive decline.
There is a recognized overlap of risk factors related to dementia and Type 2 diabetes, but a causative relationship is unclear. Another recent study looked at 1,037 participants with 279 having diabetes. Researchers found no direct association between diabetes and dementia as the rate of dementia among the two groups were similar.
Regardless, both diseases share many risk factors, including obesity, history of heart disease, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Further, it has been shown that glucose is not metabolized properly in the brains of those with Alzheimer's disease.
The solutions are the same for both diabetes and dementia, and that is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
One of the suggested diet modifications is to adhere to a Mediterranean-type diet that emphasizes plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts, to replace fats with olive oil and eat fish. The diet also includes drinking red wine in moderation. Staying physically and socially active is also important for brain health and the control of diabetic risk.
Prevention by diet and lifestyle is important. Currently, there are more than 30 million Americans with diabetes, of which 7 million are undiagnosed. These numbers are expected to increase with 1.5 million new cases diagnosed each year. And more than 5.5 million adults have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, with 1 in 10 seniors having it.
Now is the time to build better habits. But be aware, while some of the temptations are behind us, there are more in front of us.
After Mardi Gras and Valentine's Day come the drinking days of beer and bourbon on St. Patrick's Day and mint juleps to celebrate the Kentucky Derby. All these temptations make achieving a healthy lifestyle more difficult.
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