As we age memory loss can be a frightening prospect. We’ve all had those moments of forgetfulness where we forget where put the car keys or miss an important appointment. It’s a reasonable fear. After all, Alzheimer’s and dementia affect about one in nine people age 65 and older, and older black Americans are about twice as likely to have Alzheimer’s or other dementias as older white Americans. However, the reality is that dementia doesn’t just show up suddenly one day in old age. Dementia starts in our twenties, thirties and forties. It’s the result of all of our daily habits over the course of our entire lives, and what we do today directly affects our trajectory either toward health or toward disease.
This might sound even scarier than if dementia was just something that happened in old age, but honestly it’s actually great news because it shifts the power into our control. The underlying root cause of Alzheimer’s is linked most prominently with sugar. Unaware of the connection, we might go on eating the typical American diet of highly processed foods and excessive amounts of refined flours and sugars. By continuing to eat in this way, we are setting ourselves up for poor outcomes down the road. But with a little bit of knowledge and some proactivity, we can reverse any damage we might’ve already done and we can strengthen our brains for a healthy and vibrant old age.
The most significant impact we can make on our brains is by cutting down on sugar and adding in healthy fats. This will drastically cut down on inflammation in the body and reverse any insulin resistance that may be forming. Studies have shown a lower risk of mental decline in those following a Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats.  By taking ownership of our nutrition and revamping our diet, we can reverse the effects our food has taken on our brains. Some great things to eliminate include refined carbs, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, dairy, and foods that use omega-6 from vegetable and seed oils. It’s not just about eliminating, it’s also important that we add healthy fats. These include avocados, walnuts, almonds, cashews, grass-fed meats, pastured chicken, eggs, and healthy oil options like olive and coconut oil.
In addition to improving our diets, we can schedule regular exercise into our schedules, get eight hours of sleep, quit smoking and reduce our stress levels. The fun part of working toward a healthier mind is by simply keeping our minds agile and strong. It doesn’t take much to work out a mind, usually strengthening our neural pathways involves doing things we already enjoy. It’s important to keep learning and engage in activities that challenge your brain. You can take up a new hobby, read, play chess or cards, do a crossword puzzle, journal, take a class, garden or start on a home improvement project. It hardly matters what you do, just that it involves some new thought patterns for your mind.
By engaging in a healthy lifestyle like this, you’ll not only lower your risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia, you’ll feel better too. Your mood will naturally brighten, and you’ll have improved focus and increased energy. Plus you’ll lower your risk for other lifestyle diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
By simply remembering to treat your body well, you’ll allow your mind the ability to continue making memories well into old age. You have the power to set yourself on a trajectory toward health simply by eating well and taking care of yourself. It doesn’t matter what your diet and lifestyle look like right now; there is still time to change and take your health into your own hands.
 “Hyman, Mark Dr. “8 Steps to Reverse Memory Loss.” Prevention. http://www.thewomensalzheimersmovement.org.
 “Preserving and Improving Memory as We Age.” Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Medical School. February 2010. http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletterarticle/preserving-and-improving-memory-as-we-age