Marc E. Agronin, MD, a geriatric psychiatrist and Medical Director for Mental Health and Clinical research at Miami Jewish Health Systems and the author of How We Age: A Doctor’s Journey Into the Heart of Growing Old, in a presentation at the 2016 U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress in San Antonio.
While a diet can’t change your genes, it can improve your risk factors. The recommended diet favors the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or the MIND diet, Agronin said. The concept focuses on 10 brain-healthy food groups, including vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts and whole grains. It’s not a vegetarian diet—fish and poultry are welcome—but red meats and most oils should be avoided.
What’s off the menu are sugar-laden and processed foods and anything with a high glycemic index. That includes all sweets, bakery goods, deep-fried foods and high-cholesterol dairy foods like cheese.
Diet alone won’t do the trick. Exercise and mental engagement also are crucial components to a brain-healthy lifestyle. “I think the secret sauce here is doing something mentally active that you enjoy – learning a new language, taking an adult education classes, reading music,” Agronin told the audience. “The important thing is when looking at brain fitness recommendations, you have to cross-train. You have to do something new to challenge your brain. That’s the key thing here.”