Too Much Salt in Your Diet and Too Little Activity in Your Day Can Lead to Cognitive Decline

Brain Food, Mental Fitness, Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

It’s imperative to get a little exercise each day to prevent cognitive decline and memory loss.

A study led by researchers at Baycrest in Toronto – in collaboration with colleagues at the Institut Universitaire de Gériatrie de Montréal, McGill University and the Université de Sherbrooke has found that older adults who have too much salt in their diet and too little exercise in their day are at a greater risk of cognitive decline. Naturally, they’d be candidates for more than just mental problems, they’re also at risk for a host of heart problems.

Researchers found evidence that high-salt diets coupled with low physical activity can be detrimental to cognitive health.

The finding, which appears online in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, ahead of print publication emphasizes the truth of what we often point out here on the mental fitness blog, what affects the heart (positively or negatively) affects the brain.

The study followed the sodium consumption and physical activity levels of 1,262 healthy older men and women (ages 67 – 84) residing in Quebec, Canada, over three years. The adults were recruited from a large pool of participants in the Quebec Longitudinal Study on Nutrition and Successful Aging (NuAge).

“We have generated important evidence that sodium intake not only impacts heart health, but brain health as well,” said Dr. Alexandra Fiocco, a scientist with Baycrest’s Kunin-Lunenfeld Applied and Evaluative Research Unit (KLAERU) and the study’s lead investigator.

“The results of our study showed that a diet high in sodium, combined with little exercise, was especially detrimental to the cognitive performance of older adults,” said Dr. Fiocco.

“But the good news is that sedentary older adults showed no cognitive decline over the three years that we followed them if they had low sodium intake.”

“These data are especially relevant as we know that munching on high-salt processed snacks when engaged in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing in front of the computer, is a frequent pastime for many adults,” said Dr. Carol Greenwood, a senior author on the study and internationally-renowned scientist in the field of nutrition and cognitive function in late life.

“This study addresses an additional risk associated with lifestyles that are highly apparent in North American populations.”

As the boomer demographic ages, experts expect to see more problems with cognitive decline (memory loss, dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease), but they hope that educating the public about lifestyle changes that can help delay or prevent normal, age-related cognitive decline. Adopting a healthy lifestyle which includes lots of healthy fruit and vegetables, daily activity, stress management, and making smart dietary decision (such as cutting back on salt and red meat) can help protect us long term.

By all means, adopt these lifestyle changes for yourself, your spouse, and your children – but also look out for your parents and grandparents. Maybe introduce Mrs. Dash seasonings to them as an alternative to so much salt. Also, if they’re health allows it, go for walks with them, even if it’s just around a store or the mall.

The more I read about brain fitness and cognitive decline, the more I realize just how much lies in our own hands. We have to make smart choices and keep on making them!

More “Salt-y Information”
“Those neurofibrillary tangles associated with Alzheimer’s Disease contain aluminum (an element that makes up 14 percent of the earth’s crust). While there’s no evidence suggesting that aluminum causes memory problems, it’s better to try to avoid it. One way to reduce the aluminum you absorb: Use sea salt instead of table salt, which is processed with aluminum to avoid caking. Other things that contain aluminum include nondairy creamers, antacids, cans, certain cookware, and antiperspirants.” – From You Staying Young by Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen

 ** Don’t forget the salt content in foods and drinks. The amount of sodium in diet sodas, for example, is staggering.

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