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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

8 lifestyle tips to help protect against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

3. Eat a Diet Abundant in Fruits and Vegetables

Researchers are only beginning to understand the many healthful components in plant-based foods that help protect against chronic diseases. For a healthy brain, antioxidants such as vitamin C, E, and A may be especially important. Dozens of studies have shown that foods high in antioxidants, such as blueberries and walnuts, slow age-related decline of brain function in laboratory animals.

“Antioxidants clearly prevent or delay oxidative damage,” says Troen. “Again, that may be especially important for brain health. Since the brain is the most metabolically active organ in the body, it is exposed to the most oxidative stress. The brain also contains high levels of lipids, or fats, which are especially prone to oxidative damage.”

4. Control Blood Pressure

Over time, chronic high blood pressure, or hypertension, damages blood vessels, particularly small capillaries -- including the tiny vessels that deliver nutrients and oxygen to the brain. Studies suggest that chronic hypertension is associated with increased risk of age-related cognitive decline. A study of 104 adults conducted by researchers at the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University in Detroit, for example, found that people with high blood pressure had slower memories and were less able to process information they see around them. Women take note: Studies show that older women are much more likely than older men to have high blood pressure and less likely to be under treatment to keep it under control.

5. Maintain Normal Blood Sugar Levels

An epidemic of type 2 diabetes is under way in the U.S. and much of the developed world, driven largely by rising rates of obesity. Diabetes occurs when the body is no longer able to breakdown sugar normally, causing levels of glucose in the blood to soar. These high blood sugar levels result in damage to the lining of blood vessels. In a study, researchers at the Rudolf Magnus Institute of Neuroscience in the Netherlands compared a range of cardiovascular risk factors, including high cholesterol, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes. They found a strong association between diabetes and declines in mental flexibility, memory, and the speed of brain processing.

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