As we age, staying healthy and preserving our mental and cognitive health becomes increasingly important.
There are many different factors that can affect our health as we grow older, so researchers are always looking for ways to prevent or delay negative health outcomes.
One promising approach is to focus on diet, specifically the Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that emphasizes whole, plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains, as well as healthy fats like olive oil and fish.
Previous research has suggested that this diet may have a range of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.
In this study, researchers wanted to investigate whether following the Mediterranean diet could also improve mental and cognitive health, quality of life, and overall successful aging in middle-aged and older adults living in Sicily, southern Italy.
They collected data from 883 individuals, including information about their food intake, sleep quality, depressive symptoms, quality of life, cognitive status, and overall successful aging.
They then conducted multivariate logistic regression analyses to assess the association between adherence to the Mediterranean diet and these different health outcomes.
The results of the study were striking. People who followed the Mediterranean diet more closely were less likely to have cognitive impairment and depressive symptoms, and more likely to have a good quality of life.
They were also more likely to age successfully.
What’s especially interesting is that these effects were dose-dependent. In other words, people who followed the Mediterranean diet more closely had better outcomes than those who followed it less closely.
For example, people in the highest quartile of adherence to the diet were more likely to have good health outcomes than those in the lower quartiles.
There were some specific findings worth highlighting as well. People in the highest quartile of adherence to the Mediterranean diet were significantly less likely to have cognitive impairment and depressive symptoms.
They were also significantly more likely to have a good quality of life and to age successfully.
Interestingly, even people in the third quartile of adherence to the diet were more likely to have good sleep quality than those in the lower quartiles.
In conclusion, this study provides strong evidence that following the Mediterranean diet can improve mental and cognitive health, quality of life, and overall successful aging in middle-aged and older adults living in southern Italy.
By emphasizing whole, plant-based foods and healthy fats, this diet offers a simple and accessible way for people to support their health as they age.
How to protect your cognitive health
Protecting cognitive health is an important goal for people of all ages, but it becomes particularly important as we grow older. Here are some tips for protecting cognitive health:
Stay mentally active: Regular mental stimulation, such as reading, doing puzzles, or learning a new skill, can help to keep the brain healthy and prevent cognitive decline.
Stay physically active: Regular exercise can help to improve blood flow to the brain and promote the growth of new brain cells, which can improve cognitive function.
Eat a healthy diet: A diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats can help to support cognitive health. In particular, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have been linked to better cognitive function.
Get enough sleep: Sleep is important for cognitive function and memory consolidation. Older adults should aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
Manage chronic conditions: Chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension can increase the risk of cognitive decline. Managing these conditions through medication, diet, and exercise can help to protect cognitive health.
Stay socially active: Social engagement has been linked to better cognitive function. Older adults should stay socially active by participating in community activities, volunteering, or spending time with friends and family.
By following these tips, people can help to protect their cognitive health and maintain their mental sharpness as they age.
The study was conducted by Justyna Godos et al and published in Experimental Gerontology.
Copyright © 2023 Scientific Diet. All rights reserved.