Dementia: The cheap snack shown to reduce your risk of brain decline

Dementia is a general term for a group of symptoms associated with brain decline. The most common form of dementia in the UK is Alzheimer’s disease, a condition characterised by memory loss, impaired thinking skills and other mental abilities. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease progress slowly over several years but in the latter stages, a person’s quality of life is greatly diminished.


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Unfortunately, there’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease but mounting research has found a link between healthy lifestyle interventions and a reduced risk of developing it.

Eating a heart-healthy diet has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications and dementia.

One staple of a heart-healthy diet has shown particular promise in preserving cognitive ability.

Walnuts, a great source of healthy fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals, has been shown to boost brain health in several studies.

Research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that walnuts may have a beneficial effect in reducing the risk, delaying the onset, or slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

A recent journal publication also suggested that eating nuts, including walnuts, may be related to better overall cognition at older ages.

This has been confirmed in observational studies in older adults, which have linked eating walnuts to better brain function, including faster processing speed, more mental flexibility and better memory.

Animal studies have also confirmed the association.

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In a 10-month study of Alzheimer’s disease, mice fed six to nine percent of their calories as walnuts (equal to 1–1.5 ounces or 28–45 grams daily in people) had significant improvements in learning skills, memory and anxiety reduction, compared to a walnut-free control group.

What explains the link?

Animal and test-tube studies found that the nutrients in walnuts, including polyunsaturated fat, polyphenols and vitamin E, may help reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in your brain.

Oxidative stress is a process whereby unstable molecules cause atoms in the cells of the body to lose an electron.

The damage called by this process is said to play a role in the development of dementia.


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Other ways to reduce your risk

The latest research suggests that other factors are also important, although this does not mean these factors are directly responsible for causing dementia.

The latest research suggests that other factors are also important, although this does not mean these factors are directly responsible for causing dementia.

According to the NHS, these include:

  • Untreated depression (although this can also be a symptom of dementia)
  • Loneliness or social isolation
  • A sedentary lifestyle

“The research concluded that by modifying all the risk factors we’re able to change, our risk of dementia could be significantly reduced,” says the health body.

There’s also some evidence to suggest that rates of dementia are lower in people who remain mentally and socially active throughout their lives.

It may be possible to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia by:

  • Reading
  • Learning foreign languages
  • Playing musical instruments
  • Volunteering in your local community
  • Taking part in group sports, such as bowling
  • Trying new activities or hobbies
  • Maintaining an active social life

Interventions such as “brain training” computer games have been shown to improve cognition over a short period, notes the NHS.

Although, as it points out, research has not yet demonstrated whether this can help prevent dementia.

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