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What's Up Magazine

Health Span: Living Longer, Living Better

Aug 27, 2013 10:31AM ● By Cate Reynolds

What’s so wrong with wanting quality and quantity? Are you planning to live to 100…and enjoy every minute of it? Welcome to the club. We are living longer lives than ever before in history. (If you were a white, male American born in 1935, for example, you were statistically expected to only make it until age 61. Thankfully, we all know a lot of 78-year-olds still going strong today.) Achieving that watershed mark of 100 years of age is going to become more and more common. Cancer and heart disease treatments have made remarkable strides. But what can we do individually to keep that clock not only ticking but chiming?

Here’s a possible answer: Researchers may have found a diet that boosts aging brain power. According to a report just published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, a Mediterranean diet with added extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts seems to improve the brain power of older people better than advising them to follow a low-fat diet.

A Mediterranean diet is characterized by the use of virgin olive oil as the main culinary fat; high consumption of fruits, nuts and vegetables, moderate-to-high consumption of fish and seafood, low consumption of dairy products and red meat, and moderate intake of red wine.

The small study conducted by University of Navarra in Spain based its findings on 522 men and women aged 55 to 80 without cardiovascular disease but at high vascular risk because of underlying conditions such as type 2 diabetes, or with three of the following: high blood pressure; unfavorable blood fat profile; overweight; a family history of early cardiovascular disease, and being a smoker.

After an average of six and a half years, the subjects were tested for signs of cognitive decline. Sixty of the 522 participants had developed mild cognitive impairment: 18 on an olive oil supplemented Mediterranean diet; 19 on a diet with added mixed nuts; and 23 on a controlled low-fat option. A further 35 people developed dementia: 12 on the added olive oil; six on the added nut diet; and 17 on the low-fat diet. These study did not incorporate the rate of the general public versus these findings; its purpose was to compare the effects of the Mediterranean diet on the participants as opposed to those eating a low-fat diet.

Bottom Line: Even though it was a sampling, it looks as if cracking some walnuts this weekend while you sip a nice merlot would be a wise thing to do.—S.H.

What’s Up? does not give medical advice. This material is simply a discussion of current information, trends, and topics. Please seek the advice of a physician before making any changes to your lifestyle or routine.