My annual nutrition conference focused this year on healthy aging and the brain.
Discussion included disease prevention, healthy aging and function-preserving strategies. One speaker noted that aging impacts are a bigger threat to the United States than global warming. After you take a moment to thoroughly grasp that, the next kicker is that aging actually begins around 35 and its impacts start showing up around 60.
What happens if we do nothing? What is the role of exercise, diet and healthy lifestyle on aging. When one looks at the leading causes of illness and death today, you are only as old as your arteries. Yes, some of the information is what we have heard for years, some is new but some emphasized why we need to care.
The so named “silver tsunami” started in 2011 when the first group of baby boomers turned 65 (those born between 1946-1964). In 2011, there were 44.7 million residents 65 or older. This is expected to swell to 83.7 million over the next 35 years. It is evident that actions taken in midlife impact healthy aging both individually as well as nationally.
One interesting topic was the MIND diet’s impact on decreased cardiovascular diseases (strokes, mini-strokes and heart attacks), Alzheimer’s (early as well as late onset), dementia and Parkinson’s.
The information about Alzheimer’s was chilling. Currently, 5.4 million have Alzheimer’s, which is the sixth leading cause of death and involves more than 15 million unpaid caregivers. Alzheimer’s is costing the United States $200 billion annually. If we do nothing, by 2050, the 5.4 million people with Alzheimer’s will increase to 13.4 million. Global warming move over.
Some key parts of the two days of information started with the MIND diet discussion. MIND was found to have the strongest association to preventing cognitive decline, limiting the incidence of atherosclerotic disease (hardening of arteries), decreasing the development of motor problems and mortality. It also is predictive of dementia, and can result in healthier brain and arteries and delayed brain aging. The two-fold action starts with keeping artery walls supple to push the blood throughout the body.
This involved any kind of physical activity on a daily basis throughout your mature years and significantly limiting saturated fats. Physical activity relates to fitness and being active to significantly impact brain function and increase “gray matter.” Studies noted that it is never too late to start being active to benefit from exercise. The second half of the process requires decreasing oxidation of brain cells that keeps cells alive and functional longer (again – more gray matter).
I can’t go into what and how each aspect impacts aging brain in the interest of space. Some of the key items were that high saturated fat intake increased impaired memory, increased brain lesions, nerve inflammation and nerve toxicity. Linolenic acid impact fat deposits in brain, arteries and is found in walnuts, soybeans, wheat germ (in whole grains) and human milk.
Nuts, seeds, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and fats help cells live longer because of their antioxidant effect. Note: All of the discussion revolved around foods not supplements or artificially produced nutrients.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461. Wendy Rice is the family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.