Mark Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”. However, as someone who follows the research on successful aging, there is clear interest in remaining healthy as time goes by. As an example, there were two articles related to aging at the end of 2017, which grabbed my attention. The first, a study by Morris et al, reviewed diet and cognitive decline. In a study of almost 1000 people, they found a significant slowing of cognitive decline in those who ate just one serving of green leafy vegetables a day. The benefit was the equivalent of being 11 years younger in age! The authors felt the consumption of a diet rich in several bioactives and nutrients may help slow the decline in cognition with age. This study supports several other larger studies that have related the consumption of green leafy vegetables and the slowing of cognitive decline. Even though these studies support my opinion on diet and aging, dietary studies are challenging with possible confounding biases.
The second article was an editorial on the prevention of dementia by Eric Larsen, M.D. Dr. Larsen has been directly involved in several committees, including the Lancet Commission, that have looked at the evidence for prevention of late-life dementia. His conclusion was there is no definite “Magic Bullet” for preventing cognitive decline at the evidence level needed for the US Preventative Task Force. The lack of evidence is a reflection of the challenge of research regarding aging. Dementia is a chronic disease that begins decades before symptoms begin. Trials, to understanding which interventions would be the most helpful, would be decades long with multiple barriers, including cost and ethical dilemmas.
What should we recommend in regards to the question of preventing dementia? The Lancet Commission concluded, the best chance to prevent dementia is a “life course” approach, which is an important focus of our conferences at Cycling CME. This focus includes the basics of regular physical activity and healthy nutrition. In addition, preventing or controlling diabetes, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and continuing to engage your mind.
So be active today, eat your greens, and engage your mind.
Larson, EB. Prevention of Late-Life Dementia: No Magic Bullet. JAMA, 2017.
Morris, MC, et al. Nutrients and Bioactives in Green Leafy Vegetables and Cognitive Decline. JAMA, 2017.