As we age, it becomes more important than ever to take care of our bodies and minds.
Over 10 million people across the U.K. are currently affected by arthritis and 850,000 people have been diagnosed with dementia. With no cure currently available for either of these diseases, prevention is still the best course of action for those suffering or at risk. Even if you’ve not been diagnosed with either of these conditions, it’s important to take ownership of your health, so that you can live your best and fullest life.
Eating a healthy diet is one of the smartest things you can do to improve your cognitive or musculoskeletal health, along with other activities such as sleeping well, exercising and relieving stress.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints due to infectious, metabolic or other constitutional causes. These include obesity, diabetes, trauma to the joints or inflammatory response to joint tissue. Even genetic factors can have an effect on how prone you might be to developing the disease.
What is dementia?
Dementia is the ongoing decline of the brain that can result in memory loss, personality changes, and impairment of language, judgement and intellect. The causes behind dementia are many and varied; from the toxic accumulation of mercury and aluminium in the brain to nutrient deficiencies (in particular, b12), chronic high cortisol, infections, and poor function of the mitochondria (the organ in your cells that’s in charge of energy and respiration).
Managing your Arthritis or Dementia
As with many diseases, it’s important to take a holistic approach to your health. You can reap the benefits of a healthy diet and achieve more longevity by engaging in certain key behaviours. In general, you can improve your cognitive and physical abilities by taking on the following:
- lifelong learning
- routine daily activities
- sleeping well
Maintaining a balanced emotional state and reducing stress can also play a major role in how well you cope with these health concerns.
It’s vital to keep your body’s stress levels responding correctly. If not, chronic inflammation can rise and cause systemic issues, suppressing your immune system. Walking in nature, meditation or yoga are good ways of relieving stress.
Poor sleep can play a major role in cognitive decline. Good sleep hygiene, that is getting to bed at a regular time each night, maintaining low lighting 2hrs before sleep and not eating too late, can help to reduce the amyloid plaques found in Alzheimer’s. Aim for 8hrs a night.
Using your body regularly also makes a huge difference. It’s not enough to sit around for 7hrs and then try to combat that with 1hr at the gym. Instead, try and move throughout the day by taking the stairs, walking to the shops instead of driving, or joining in on group activities. Consistency is key. Movement helps regulate hormones, especially insulin (linked to brain degeneration) and healthy body weight.
You can also add weight bearing to your exercise regime but avoid this if you have arthritis.
Last (but definitely not least) is your nutritional intake. This should consist of a diet high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods. You can source these through whole foods, grains and fatty fish. This is widely known as eating a Mediterranean diet.
Benefits of a Mediterranean diet
The effects of a Mediterranean diet have been well researched for both brain and musculoskeletal health. As a result, we now know that getting the right amount of omega 3 in your system is instrumental in protecting the brain and reducing inflammation. You can get Omega 3 by consuming oily fish, such as salmon or sardines. A Mediterranean diet is also rich in fruits and vegetables which help combat the effects of other lifestyle and environmental ‘baddies’ like free radicals. The addition of healthy fats from nuts and olive oil and the occasional red meats provide further nutritional benefits. And, when it comes to reducing inflammation, herbs such as Tumeric and Ginger have fantastic anti-inflammatory properties.
Here are some more tips for getting the best out of your diet:
- Stay hydrated with approximately 2 litres of water per day
- Observe the 80% rule and stop eating when you are about 80% full
- Get enough fibre, intake should be around 30-40g per day
- Include fermented foods in your diet, to ensure gastrointestinal health
Vitamins to stave off arthritis and dementia
Vitamin D – Crucial to the immune system and your bone health, Vitamin D promotes proper calcium absorption. Being Vitamin D deficient puts you at an increased risk of developing arthritis, so getting your levels checked and taking a supplement over the winter months is a good preventative measure to take.
Vitamin b12 – A b12 deficiency can actually mimic the signs of Alzheimer’s, dementia, multiple sclerosis, and several mental illnesses. Nourishing your body with whole foods is one of the best ways to get the vitamins and nutrients you need to combat this. If you’re low on B12, try eating some vitamin-rich foods like:
- Organ Meats
If you’re vegan then it’s critically important that you supplement your diet with b12.
Hopefully, you now have a better idea of what foods and lifestyle choices can help you prevent or manage arthritis and Dementia. Even finding just a few realistic ways to implement some of these changes on a daily basis can have a lasting impact on your health.