How Nutrition and Physical Activity Help us Keep Our Wits about Us


We’ve discussed how important nutrition and physical activity are for academic success and mental health. But what about dementia?

Recently, the National Academies of Science Engineering Medicine published an article Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward which articulates, based on research, ways to prevent or delay dementia. The results are exciting from a nutritionist and personal trainer’s standpoint.

Though there’s no solid proof, there are certain interventions reported that have positive outcomes to delay dementia. It’s strange how, over the years, we’ve placed the brain and its workings on a different level than our bodies as a whole. In fact, there’s a beautiful simplicity that goes back to the basics – take care of our bodies, and we take care of our minds.

So, let’s begin inside-out.

  • olives_oily_paprikaFeed your brain to reduce chances of dementia.  Research suggests that patients who suffer from high blood pressure are more likely to suffer from dementia, as most dementia patients have cerebrovascular disease. By controlling blood pressure with diet, we may be able to prevent or delay dementia. Just by simple changes in our diets, in particular adopting the DASH Diet or Mediterranean Diet, we treat our bodies to a double-whammy of good. We’ll lower our blood pressure, in turn reducing the risk of death from heart disease or cancer, all the while keeping dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s at bay. Again, as clarified in this Nutrition Action article, the results of testing cannot be proven, as any experimentation involving patients using diet would be unethical.
  • trikonasanaGet your brain on the move: This is particularly phenomenal! You can move to better brain health. Just as a DASH diet will keep the right nutrients in your body, having a movement mindset will also help you lower blood pressure, Type II Diabetes, obesity, cancer and more. Keeping your body moving has that secondary side effect of keeping your brain healthy and reducing the risk of cerebrovascular disease. So, calculate your sitting time and take a stand to a healthier brain.
  • Time to take out the Sudoku: This makes a lot of sense, and it’s something we have heard over the years. But it’s worth re-stating. Become a lifelong learner. Crosswords, books, Sudoku … problem solving and learning are integral to continual cognitive development. There’s no definitive proof that this has long-term effects or that bettering one part of our cognitive development has a domino effect making our brains work better all around. But there is reason to keep up our book habits. Plus, it makes us more interesting. Double-bonus!

Again, all of these findings are things we’ve heard before. And though there’s no conclusive evidence, there’s a lot to be said for consistent results over the years.

So, this year, let’s focus on brain health. And by doing so, we’ve got to become intentional in our food and exercise choices, be mindful in our eating habits. Because, really, what sits on our shoulders is the key to everything we are.

“The human brain has 100 billion neurons, each neuron connected to 10 thousand other neurons. Sitting on your shoulders is the most complicated object in the known universe.” —Michio Kaku