Certain foods may help ward off subtle age-related cognitive decline or even full-blown dementia, recent research suggests. Nutrients linked to a clear mind and sharp memory…

  • Folate. In studies of people age 70 and older, those with low blood levels of folate had about twice the risk for Alzheimer's disease as those with normal levels. Folate reduces homocysteine, a dietary by-product linked to inflammation, blood clots and small blood vessel damage

Best: Each day, eat two or more servings of folate-rich dark green leafy or cruciferous veg. etables, such as spinach, romaine lettuce, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. As insurance, consider taking a daily multivitamin that provides 400 micrograms of folic acid (synthetic folate).

  • Marine omega-3 fatty acids. Fish provide the omega-3s eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Studies show that people who eat fish five or more times weekly are 30% less likely to suffer a stroke than those who rarely eat fish. Frequent fish consumption also is associated with fewer "silent" (symptomless) brain lesions, as seen on imaging tests... and may reduce Alzheimer's risk. Fish oil also improves function of nerve cell membranes and boosts production of brain chemicals that allow nerve cells to communicate.

Wise: Eat salmon, tuna, herring, sardines or mackerel at least twice weekly...or take daily fish oil supplements with 400 mg to 1,000 mg of combined EPA and DHA

  • Flavonoids. Oxidation, a chemical reaction that can damage blood vessels, may be a key contributor to brain aging. Antioxidant plant pigments called flavonoids may counteract this particularly the anthocyanins in deep-colored fruits such as berries, cherries and Concord grapes. In animal studies, berry extracts reversed age-related declines in spatial learning and memory as measured by how quickly the animals learned to navigate a maze.

Goal: Eat berries or deep-colored fruit at least two to three times per week.

  • Coffee. In a study of 7,017 people age 65 and older women who drank at least three cups of caffeinated coffee or six cups of caffeinated tea per day experienced less decline in memory over four years than those who drank one cup or less. However, caffeine can trigger digestive upset, insomnia and migraine.

Advised: Have no more than four eight-ounce cups of coffee daily

The alcohol question: Moderate alcohol intake is linked with less cognitive decline—though this may simply reflect that people who already have cognitive problems are less likely to imbibe.

Recommended: Do not start drinking alcohol specifically to prevent cognitive decline. If you already drink, limit consumption to no more than one alcoholic beverage daily.

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