Food is to the brain, what exercise is to the heart

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Published on November 30, 2010 with No Comments

What is on your menu may affect what is in your mind, according to the American Dietetic Association.

“The current recommendations for optimal brain health are similar to recommendations for optimal cardiovascular health,” Vanessa Provins, a Porter Clinical Dietitian, said.

Sample Brain Food Menu:

Breakfast – Try a whole grain English muffin. Top if off with olive oil instead of butter, then grab a handful of almonds for protein. Strive for a diet rich in monounsaturated fats, which are found in nuts and olive oil. Studies tie the consumption of almonds with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and sudden heart attacks.

Lunch – Serve up a plate of fresh leafy greens with your favorite low fat dressing. A Chicago study showed that older adults who consume at least three servings of vegetables per day – especially green, leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach – maintain their mental abilities 40 percent longer than those who eat less than one serving per day.

Dinner – Try an old favorite, tuna noodle casserole. Substitute in whole grain pasta, low sodium mushroom soup and fresh or frozen peas. A Rush Institute study found that those who ate at least one fish meal per week were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who never ate fish. Important Omega-3’s are found in fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.

We all know that exercise is good for the body. Now, scientists are discovering it is good for the brain as well, according to Michael Nimmons, Exercise Physiologist with Porter’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Department.

Research shows that exercise improves memory, concentration, and abstract reasoning among older adults, and may even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s.

Here is how it works.

Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which nourishes brain cells and allows them to function more effectively. Another recent study showed that exercise actually promotes the growth of new neurons – brain cells – in the part of the brain that controls memory and learning.

Scientists previously believed that once brain cells died, they were not replaced. Whether you are a heart patient or not, call Porter’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Department at 219-263-4629 to help you begin or improve your fitness routine.

Scientists now believe that social interaction is key to maintaining good mental health and warding off diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In a study of 2,249 California women published in the July issue of American Journal of Public Health, researchers reported that older women who maintained large social networks were 26 percent less likely develop dementia than those with smaller social networks. And those who had daily contact with friends and family cut their risk of dementia by almost half.

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