Scientists continue to examine what causes people's brain health to decline. While natural aging and genetics are part of the equation, lifestyle factors can play a significant role. Two recent studies further explored this connection by looking at how stress and diet might affect cognitive function and protect against Alzheimer's disease.
One study found that perceived stress — the degree of stress people feel about their life — was linked to poor cognitive health among older adults. Researchers recruited more than 24,000 people (average age 64). They measured stress and cognitive function with the Perceived Stress Scale and the Mini-Mental State Examination. The results showed that people who scored highest on the stress level scale were more likely to have low cognitive test scores. The reverse was also true — lower stress levels went hand in hand with higher test scores. The results were published online March 7, 2023, by JAMA Network Open.
In another study, published online March 8, 2023, by Neurology, researchers explored whether certain dietary habits may lower the risk of Alzheimer's. The researchers analyzed data on 581 people from the Rush Memory and Aging Project cohort, a prospective study of older adults who agreed to undergo annual evaluations and to donate their brain at death. Participants reported on their dietary habits and completed annual food questionnaires.
The researchers found that people who regularly followed plant-based diets had lower amounts of beta-amyloid buildup in their brains, a marker for Alzheimer's. Among this group, people with the highest intake of green leafy vegetables — seven or more weekly servings — had less buildup than those who ate only one or two servings a week.
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