What we choose to drink—or not drink—can have a powerful effect on our brains. Did you know, for example, that drinking tea can lower your risk of dementia? On the other hand, consuming diet soda can increase that risk significantly. And plain old water increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain. “[This] improves concentration and cognition … and helps balance moods and emotions, reducing stress and headaches,” according to the Women’s Brain Health Initiative.
One drink in particular, however, has actually been shown to improve memory in people suffering from dementia (as well as having a significant impact on overall wellness). Read on to find out what beverage could give your brain a boost—and your taste buds a treat.
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Dementia—the term for a group of diseases that cause cognitive decline, such as Alzheimer’s and Lewy body dementia—is a debilitating condition that’s unfortunately on the rise. The statistics are starting: According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over six million people in the US have Alzheimer’s, with that number projected to increase to 13 million by 2050. Deadlier than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, dementia kills one in three seniors.
Finding ways to protect and boost our brain health is crucial in even the best of circumstances. But since dementia can cause significant damage to that vital organ and its billions of hard-working brain cells, it’s important to know what you can do to potentially prevent damage to your cognitive function—or manage your brain health after the onset of dementia.
A 2019 study published in Food & Function found that tart cherry juice—specifically juice made from Montmorency cherries—helped improve cognitive abilities in Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers think the antioxidants in the juice may be they key. Why? “Several studies suggest that ‘oxidative stress’ may play a role in the changes in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s disease,” explains the Alzheimer’s Society.
Tart cherry juice has been found to be rich in antioxidants, which can address oxidative stress. According to Healthline, “Tart cherries and their juice contain large amounts of antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds that may have protective effects on brain cells.”
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Studies have shown that tart cherry juice is rich in vitamins and nutrients, which can help with sore muscles, sleep issues, and hypertension, as well as conditions such as gout and arthritis, says Healthline.
These benefits may be related to the effect cherry juice has on the brain. “The potential beneficial effects of tart cherries may be related to the bioactive compounds they possess, which include polyphenols, anthocyanins and melanin,” explained Sheau Ching Chaiassistant professor of behavioral health and nutrition at the University of Delaware and lead author of the Food & Function study.”They may also be related to tart cherry’s potential blood-pressure lowering effects, outlined in a previous study we conducted in the same population, as blood pressure can influence blood flow to the brain.”
Making sure to stay abreast of your overall wellness, and look for early signs of dementia, can be an important part of managing the condition.
“An early diagnosis means you can be more involved in personal decisions about your future,” says Ryan C. Warner, clinical psychologist at 1AND1 Life. “You can start treatments earlier, which makes them more effective, and you can start targeting some conditions that could make your symptoms of dementia worse, like vitamin deficiencies, sleep disorders, depression, or alcohol abuse.”
Certain lifestyle choices can help reduce your risk of dementia or help improve cognitive function. In particular, exercise can be a brain booster. Research shows that 20 minutes of exercise a day reduces the risk of cognitive decline even after the onset of dementia, providing protective proteins for the brain, and “it appears to work independently of whether a person already has markers for Alzheimer’s and other dementia,” CNN reports.
Other healthy habits that can help prevent the loss of memory and motor skills include getting enough sleep, limiting your alcohol intake, engaging socially, and staying mentally stimulated.
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