The DASH Diet for Brain Health

The DASH Diet for Brain Health

Senior health has become a major focus in the past decade or so as the so-called Baby Boomer generation hit 50, and now 70.

With an aging population has come more cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other forms of dementia than ever before.

As scientists study AD in the desperate hope of finding some form of prevention or cure, they’ve noted that many AD patients have certain things in common.

They are often overweight, eat a lot of processed foods, focus on carbohydrates rather than healthier foods, and have high blood pressure.

The DASH diet has been proven in relation to heart health, but can it also help with brain health and reduce your risk of AD?

What is the DASH diet?

The DASH diet, Dietary Approaches to Stopping Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) is a free diet that was developed when researchers noted just how many cases of high blood pressure (HBP) were developing in the US. Blood pressure tended to rise as we got older, and at first, was considered a normal and not too dangerous part of aging.

However, fast forward to 2016, and we now know that HBP contributes to a range of life-threatening diseases, including heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. Recent recommendations therefore state that everyone, no matter what their age, should try to maintain a healthy blood pressure of 120 over 70.

The DASH diet was developed in order to help people stay within that normal range through diet alone, not medication. The results have been impressive.

The DASH diet-easy eating

The DASH diet is pretty easy to follow, and there are lots of free resources online to help you get the most out of it. The eating plan emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy, seafood, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. It contains less salt and sodium, sweets, added sugars, fats, and red meats than the typical American eats.

Salt is a major contributor to blood pressure because it causes us to retain water. Eating a diet low in salt by steering clear of canned food and ones that are preserved through salting and/or smoking, such as cold cuts, is key to lowering HBP.

DASH recommendations are spread over eight food groups:

* Vegetables
* Fruits
* Grains
* Fat-free dairy
* Lean protein
* Nuts, seeds and legumes (peas, lentils, peanuts)
* Fats and oils
* Sweets and added sugars

Eat more of the items at the top of the list each day, and few to none at the bottom of the list, and see if you can get your HBP down and boost your brain health.


Why Do You Have High Blood Pressure

Why do you have high blood pressure?

The first question that comes to mind if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure is why.

There are many factors that may play a role in the development of high blood pressure and it not always an indication that you are doing something wrong.

The following are the common factors and lifestyle issues that play a role in the development of high blood pressure:


Genetics- having a family history of high blood pressure can predispose you to developing high blood pressure. Lifestyle modification can have a big impact on your blood pressure; however, if you have a family history it may be inevitable that you will require medication to keep your blood pressure under control.

Obesity- obesity increases the workload of the heart causing an elevation in your heart rate and blood pressure. Obesity frequently results in the development of diabetes and over a long period of time uncontrolled diabetes may affect the kidneys which play a role in the development of high blood pressure. Also, patients that suffer from obesity develop hardening of the arteries. This hardening of the arteries prevents the blood vessel from relaxing with a subsequent increase in your blood pressure.

Make it your goal to start taking the steps to achieve your ideal body weight. The longer you wait the harder it is and the greater your risk of suffering from the long term side effects of high blood pressure and obesity.

Alcohol use- a small amount of alcohol intake may be good for your heart and cholesterol levels. However, excessive alcohol intake can actually cause an elevation in blood pressure, stress the walls of the heart, damage the liver, and increase your risk of falls and automobile accidents.

Smoking and use of other nicotine products- nicotine causes constriction of the blood vessels and stimulates the heart causing a rise in your blood pressure. The best first step in managing high blood pressure is to quit smoking. This adverse effect is also seen with all nicotine products not just smoking. Smoking not only affects your blood pressure, but can result in chronic lung disease, hardening of the arteries, and lung cancer.

Salt intake- excessive salt intake can result in an elevation in your blood pressure. Salt (sodium chloride) causes you to retain fluid and pulls fluid into the blood vessels causing a rise in your blood pressure due to the increase in fluid volume. Avoiding excessive salt and not adding salt to your diet is a great first step in managing your high blood pressure.

Stressful lifestyle- some stress in our lives can be beneficial; however, when the stress gets out of control it can have an adverse affect on your health. Continued poorly managed stress causes an elevation in your bodies adrenaline (catecholamines) which cause stimulation of the heart, constriction of the blood vessels and increases in your blood pressure. Healthy stress management plays a vital role in achieving and maintaining optimal health and blood pressure. Lean how to meditate and starting an exercise program will make a big impact on your health and blood pressure.

Legal and illegal drug use- some over the counter medications such as cold medications, and anti-inflammatory medication can contribute to an elevation in your blood pressure. Many cold preparations contain the decongestants pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine which cause and increase in blood pressure by the constriction of your blood vessels. The stimulant medications such as adderral, ritalin, dextro-amphetamine and others used to help treat attention deficit disorder and similar conditions can also result in elevations in blood pressure. Caution should be used when taking these medications if you suffer from high blood pressure.

Illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine result in a similar response when taken even in small amounts. If an elevation in your blood pressure does not deter your use, then the risk of incarceration and destruction of your life should open your eyes.

The above lifestyle changes can play a big role in improving not only your blood pressure, but your overall health.

Learning to check your blood pressure and monitoring it at home is crucial to taking an active role in achieving optimal health.