How Diet May Impact Dementia Risk

A neurologist weighs in on what foods may increase your dementia risk and offers some healthy habits for your brain health overall.

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CLEVELAND – Can diet play a role when it comes to your risk of developing dementia?

A recent study found you may be increasing your risk of cognitive decline if more than 20 percent of your daily calories come from ultra-processed foods.

“These foods have been processed many times and often contain a lot of added ingredients and sugar – foods like soda, chips, fast food and frozen dinners,” explained Charles Bernick, MD, a neurologist at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. “Diets heavily weighted toward these types of foods seem to be associated with a higher risk of dementia.”

Dr. Bernick, who did not take part in the study, said the most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.

And while age and genetics are the biggest risk factors for Alzheimer’s, Dr. Bernick stresses diet is something you have control over.

Eating plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grains can be beneficial for brain health.

Dr. Bernick said people who follow the Mediterranean Diet generally have a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

However, focusing on a good diet is just one of the healthy lifestyle choices you can make.

“Exercise, proper sleep, engagement as far as staying mentally active – I think having a combination of these healthy lifestyle factors is going to have the most impact rather than each one separately,” Dr. Bernick said.

He adds the best time to incorporate these healthy habits is today.

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