By: Traci Miller, Senior Director of Nutrition and Wellness

You might remember the six lifestyle habits that can protect brain health, as covered in our first installment. If not, here’s a quick recap: exercise, nutrition, sleep, challenging the brain, stress management, and staying socially connected. Our interactive education series #MoveYourMind discusses how these habits can improve brain fitness. Now, you might be thinking: “Can what you eat really stop, slow down, or improve cognitive decline?” The short answer is: YES.

The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diet. The DASH diet stands for a Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (which is high blood pressure). This diet recommends less sodium than the average American consumes. The average American diet includes at least 3,400 milligrams of sodium per day! In contrast, DASH recommendations are anywhere from 1500 to 2300 milligrams of sodium daily. To put that into perspective, two slices of pepperoni pizza alone have 1300 milligrams of sodium!

Reducing sodium helps many people, yet not all, control their blood pressure. Hypertension takes a toll on the aging brain and can contribute to vascular dementia. These effects came from the higher pressure on blood vessels. According to Harvard Medical School, high blood pressure in men can increase the risk of stroke by 220%. If you reduce hypertension by just ten points, you can reduce your risk by 44%.

Multi-infarct dementia is due to many “mini” strokes. Reducing inflammation and the risk of stroke is imperative to combat dementia. In addition to monitoring salt intake, eating the anti-inflammatory foods included in the Mediterranean diet is key. You can delay signs of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the brain with this plant-forward diet. The Mediterranean style of eating is centered on: whole grains, seafood, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs & spices, and nuts. Healthy fats in moderation, such as olive oil, are also a staple.

Our theme for #NationalNutritionMonth is “Make Every Day Mediterranean“. To partake, click here for shopping lists and a meal plan from what was recognized as the Best 2020 Diet, according to U.S. News! Join us in celebrating, and nourish your mind with the fresh and flavorful foods of the MIND diet!

…and don’t forget to move more. Sit less. #MoveYourMind