The number of candles on your birthday cake cannot be altered, but you are still able to alter how you feel and behave as you age without the need for any injections, serums, or procedures.
In fact, according to the most recent scientific findings, the key to healthy aging can be discovered in your kitchen rather than in a pharmacy or doctor’s office.
Diet is a significant driver of good aging. It may affect the likelihood of developing serious chronic conditions including cancer and cardiovascular disease, which are the main causes of death.
Numerous studies have examined how diet affects health and aging, such as a 2023 study that was published in JAMA Internal Medicine and examined the long-term effects of various diets on the risks of illness and mortality.
These diets are the best when it comes to lowering the risk of age-related cognitive decline, chronic disease, or early mortality.
A variety of health advantages, including better sleep and the prevention of serious cardiovascular events, have been associated with adopting a diet similar to those found in people who live in Mediterranean-bordering nations.
Whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, and extra virgin olive oil are prioritized in the Mediterranean diet. These foods are low in saturated fat, which is crucial for cognitive function in addition to being low in sugar and salt.
Saturated fat is regarded to be especially damaging for the aging brain, according to Jennifer Ventrelle, a dietician and assistant professor at Rush University Medical Center.
Contrarily, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, and nut butters—all staples of the Mediterranean diet—are high in unsaturated fats, vitamin E, polyunsaturated fatty acids, and other polyphenols that have been specifically associated in studies to the protection of Alzheimer’s disease.
In order to assist treat high blood pressure, the Diet Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet was created in the 1990s.
The DASH diet places an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and beans, nuts, and seeds, much like the Mediterranean diet, but it also permits a higher intake of animal protein, such as red meat and eggs.
In comparison to the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet has less sodium and fat.
The DASH diet has been connected to decreased epigenetic age acceleration, which means that people who followed the diet were aging slower than their chronological age, according to additional studies.
Initial research indicated that the diet helped lower systolic blood pressure.
Lean meats and whole grains are encouraged in the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) diet, a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets.
The greatest distinction is that, according to Ventrelle, the MIND diet emphasizes leafy greens and berries, which are among “the most powerful nutrients acknowledged for the impacts on brain health.”
According to a recent research of obese middle-aged women, the MIND diet can reverse the negative effects of obesity on cognition and enhance cognitive function.
The MIND diet is interesting because it has been found to cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 35%, even when it is only used occasionally, says Venterelle.
This illustrates that people can benefit from healthy food for the brain without adhering to a rigid “diet,” according to the author.
Alternative Healthy Eating Index
The Alternative Healthy Eating Index (AHEI), developed by Harvard, assigns a score between zero and one hundred depending on how frequently you eat healthy foods and evaluates foods and nutrients according to their correlations with chronic disease.
The diet is healthier the higher the AHEI score. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, tofu, nuts, legumes, and fish are a few examples of foods that scored highly.
High AHEI scores were associated with a lower chance of developing chronic diseases, a 40% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and a 25% lower risk of all-cause mortality than individuals with lower scores.
In Hu’s JAMA Internal Medicine study, it was also one of the diets that was discovered to have a substantial correlation with healthy aging.
Hu notes that it is intriguing that those with higher AHEI scores have a lower probability of dying from neurodegenerative diseases.
Hydration is important
Higher levels of serum sodium, a symptom of dehydration, were shown to be associated with a higher biological age, according to research from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
According to Natalia Dmitrieva, Ph.D., senior research scientist at the NHLBI, dehydration causes hormones to go into overdrive, damaging organs and tissues and accelerating aging.
People with high serum sodium who were already middle-aged were more likely to be physiologically older, and more of them later on in life had chronic diseases and passed away at younger ages, according to Dmitrieva.
The obvious way to stay hydrated is to drink water, but frequent unsweetened simple tea and seltzer also contribute to hydration goals.