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A dementia-friendly diet prioritises protecting your brain and your heart as you get older. Although the causes behind different types of dementia are complex, research shows what you eat – and, crucially, what you don’t eat – can reduce your risk of dementia. So, what do you need to know about a diet to prevent dementia? Express.co.uk explains.
A staggering one in six people over the age of 80 have dementia in the UK and 850,000 Brits are living with the disease.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.
There is currently no cure for dementia, however, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, preventing the onset of dementia by five years could save the lives of 30,000 people every year.
Although the causes of dementia are complex, lifestyle choices including diet have been shown to be one of the biggest predictors of the disease.
So, changing your lifestyle choices could delay the onset of dementia.
Being at risk of heart disease or other circulatory problems can raise your risk of dementia, so a diet which looks after your heart can also protect your brain.
With this in mind, researchers created the MIND diet to prevent dementia and to slow down the loss of brain function as you get older.
MIND stands for Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.
The MIND diet is a combination of two diets which have been shown to reduce risk of high blood pressure and heart disease: the Mediterranean diet, and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet.
The Mediterranean diet promotes eating healthy, wholegrain and single-ingredient foods like fish, olive oil, vegetables and legumes, while avoiding processed foods.
The DASH diet takes a similar approach to the Mediterranean diet but places a huge emphasis on eating less salt.
What foods should you cut to reduce your dementia risk?
If you want to follow the MIND diet to slash your risk of developing dementia, these five foods have got to go.
Fried or fast food
This calorific food choice sadly has no place in a healthy diet, aside from being a treat you enjoy once in a while.
The MIND diet recommends cutting anything deep-fried or at least eating it less than once per week.
Not only are fried foods high in unhealthy fats, and therefore can raise your cholesterol and put you at risk of heart disease, but they are linked with cognitive decline too.
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The high-fat content of cheese means, according to the MIND diet, it should be reserved for special occasions rather than enjoyed every day.
The MIND diet says eating cheese less than once per week is the way forward.
Luckily you don’t have to go cold turkey on red meats, but the MIND diet does say you should limit your intake to less than four times a week.
The MIND diet recommends eating less than one tablespoon of butter a day: so use it wisely!
If you have to have butter on toast, that’s fine, but you’ll have to substitute it elsewhere with olive oil, which gets a big thumbs up from the brains behind the Mediterranean diet.
Pastries and sweets
Pastries, due to their high butter and sugar content, as well as pretty much any processed sweet treat is out according to MIND.
While you should try to reduce this as much as you can, the MIND diet does allow for less than four sweets a week.
What foods are allowed on the MIND diet?
If all of that sounds pretty restrictive, don’t panic.
There are loads of delicious foods the MIND diet encourages you to eat and enjoy often, including up to one glass of wine a day!
According to the MIND diet, these are ten foods you can eat regularly to boost your brain and heart health:
- Wholegrains, such as quinoa
- Green leafy vegetables, including spinach, cabbage and kale
- All vegetables
- Beans and lentils
- Poultry, such as chicken and turkey
- Fish, one or more servings a week is recommended
- Olive oil
- Wine, but no more than one glass a day
When it comes to dementia, no diet can ‘reverse’ the effects of the disease.
However, research from the MIND diet, although it is in its infancy, is promising.
In addition to preventing dementia naturally, the Mediterranean diet is credited with plenty of other health benefits including lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease and being one of the most enjoyable diets for weight loss.
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