Good news! Middle age doesn’t begin until 55… or 54 years and 347 days to be exact! This is according to a recent survey published by the BBC, in which many of the participants felt that middle age was only a state of mind anyway, and the research suggests that an active state of mind helps us keep a younger attitude in our middle and later years.
But having an ‘old attitude’ is not the only way our minds can age, cognitive decline is a scary thought for most of us, and with rates of dementia on the rise, Alzheimer’s is now the number one most dreaded disease of old age.
So what can we do to protect our brains from the effects of aging? How can we keep our minds active and healthy and help prevent cognitive decline in our later years?
As with all illness, prevention is better than cure, and whatever your age, the best way to stay fit and healthy (other than a positive mental attitude ) is through positive nutrition and lifestyle choices.
One simple way we can help to protect our brains is by eating a plant-based diet with plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables brimming with antioxidants and protective phytochemicals.
Antioxidants quench free radicals in the body offering protection from oxidation – the process by which our bodies age. Free radicals are generated by the body during metabolism, but also come from our diet and environment; stress, pollution from exhaust fumes, radiation, cigarette smoke, drugs and medication, pesticides and damaged / processed foods all produce free radicals, increasing oxidative stress and driving the aging process – we know that smoking and stress causes premature wrinkles and grey hair for example. Unfortunately the damage is not just done on the outside.
The good news is a number of studies have shown that antioxidants from a diet rich in fruit and vegetables may help protect the brain against oxidative stress, slow the progression of cognitive decline and even reduce incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s in the elderly.
A high dietary intake of antioxidants has also been associated with a lower risk of other age related conditions such as heart disease, cancer and age-related macular degeneration or AMD (vision loss)… not to mention the wrinkles!
So if you were to do just one thing to improve your health and protect your brain, eat a rainbow every day! Choose three different coloured fruits and four different coloured vegetables daily. Blueberries, blackberries, blackcurrants, beetroots, red grapes, raspberries, strawberries, plums, cherries, Pomegrantes, cranberries, red bell peppers, tomatoes, sweet potato’s,oranges, carrots, bananas avocados, kiwi’s, watercress,broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and the list goes on….
Tips for a Healthy Brain:
- Eat a Rainbow Everyday!
- Focus on fat; oily fish, nuts and seeds, flax, hemp and sunflower oil, moderate organic butter and free range meat. Our brains are approx 60% fat – and not the trans/hydrogenated kind!
- Stay hydrated; 6- 8 glasses of filtered water or herbal tea a day.
- Keep physically active; walking, cycling, swimming, yoga, dancing, gardening.
- Keep socially active; work or volunteer, join clubs, groups or causes, help elderly neighbors.
- Use your head; keep learning, read, play games and puzzles, join an art class, learn an instrument or a new language.