Prevent Cognitive Decline Later By Doing This Now, Study Says

For this study, researchers wanted to see if there was a connection between eating a particular diet in midlife, and cognitive decline later on. To find out, they analyzed 30 years of data from over 5,000 women enrolled in the NYU Women’s Health Study.

Data collection began between 1985 and 1991, when the average age of the participants was 49. They filled out questionnaires on their diets over the years, as well as reported any cognitive complaints. Those complaints were assessed using standards questions that indicate cognitive impairment and dementia.

By the end of the study, 33% of the participants reported having more than one of six standard cognitive complaints. But the women who had been adhering closely to the DASH diet, on the other hand, were less likely to have those complaints. (17% less likely, to be exact.)

In case you’ve never heard of it, DASH stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” and is a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains, while limiting cholestrol, sodium, sugar, and saturated fat. As the name suggests, it’s designed to promote heart health, which has long been understood to be a risk factor for cognitive decline.

As the study’s senior author, Yu Chen, Ph.D., MPH, explains in a news release, “Subjective complaints about daily cognitive performance are early predictors of more serious neurocognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s,” adding, “With more than 30 years follow-up, we found that the stronger the adherence to a DASH diet in midlife, the less likely women are to report cognitive issues much later in life.”

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