Haims: Inflammation and dementia
A while back, I borrowed my wife’s car while mine was in the shop. Unfortunately for me, I was on the phone when I filled it up with gas and was not paying attention. When the tank was full, I placed the gas nozzle back in its holder, took a quick glance at the price, and got back in the car.
About two blocks away, I started thinking that the cost to fill the tank seamed off for the cost of diesel fuel. When I opened my wallet to look at the receipt, my heart skipped a beat. Oops, regular gas in a diesel engine was not going to be good. Thoughts of ruining my wife’s car and the associated repair costs caused panic to set in.
After pulling over to the side of the street, I sat for a few moments and thought. I wondered to myself how much regular gas had I filled the tank with. Maybe, if there was more diesel in the tank than regular gas, it’d be OK and not have to tell my wife. Unfortunately for me, I had just filled ¾ of the tank with the wrong gas.
I wound up calling a mechanic shop nearby and was told that, while there was no guarantee, driving the car another ½ mile to the shop “might” not cause irreversible harm. By the time I got near the mechanic shop, I could tell that the car was not running well. Clearly, the cause and effects of my error were happening before my eyes.
While I’m happy to share my misfortunes and even give you a laugh at my expense, this article is not about me nor the fuel I mistakenly put in the car. Rather, it is about the poor fuel choices we choose to put in our bodies and the havoc they wreak on dementia. As with my wife’s car, the impact of our actions too often do not cause panic until a catastrophe strikes.
The foods we eat are proving to have a cause-and-effect relation on cognitive impairment. Foods that promote inflammation are central to the pathogenesis of dementia. This is not conjecture — the cause and effect are well-documented.
A healthy brain needs to be nourished properly. Nutrients such as vitamins B6, B12, C, and omega 3 essential fatty acids have shown to be beneficial to brain health. Unfortunately, too many of us do not consume a diet that promotes brain health.
New research is proving that there is a direct correlation between inflammation and the effects on the brain — particularly the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a part of the brain responsible for memories, emotion and learning. When nerve cells are damaged in the hippocampus, the brain cannot function properly.
“We know that amyloid accumulation on its own is not enough to cause dementia,” Tharick Pascoal, professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Pittsburgh, stated in a recent article. “Our results suggest that it is the interaction between neuroinflammation and amyloid pathology that unleashes tau propagation and eventually leads to widespread brain damage and cognitive impairment.”
Changes in the brain occur naturally as we age. Inevitably, the frontal lobe and hippocampus of the aging brain eventually shrink a bit. Synaptic connections and the production of dopamine, acetylcholine and serotonin, also decline and cause slowness in cognitive processing. This is all a natural and eventual occurrence.
Here are some of the foods that exacerbate inflammation: sugar, saturated fats (dairy, fatty meat), refined carbohydrates (fruit juices, pastries, white bread) and processed meats (sausage, deli meats high in sodium).
Here are some of the foods that combat inflammation: tomatoes, fruits (berries, oranges) olive oil, green leafy, vegetables (spinach, kale), nuts (almonds and walnuts), and fatty fish (salmon, tuna).
The cause and effect of poor food choices is not as noticeable as putting in the wrong type of gas in your car. Unfortunately, poor food choices will most likely degrade your quality of life, then it’ll kill you.
Changing your diet is a lifetime habit choice that does not have to be overwhelming. Making small changes is a very effective way to better the quality of your overall health and well-being. Keep some fruit and pieces of vegetables in a bowl on an easy-to-grab shelf of your refrigerator. Consider low-fat yogurt and oatmeal for breakfast or a snack. Oh, and of course, drink water instead of high-sugar drinks.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.