The potential implications of delaying or preventing memory issues and cognitive decline for the roughly 6.5 million Americans over 65 diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as of 2022, a figure expected to more than double by 2060, are huge. Diet plays a role. A popular diet is the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, often ranked as the #1 diet recommendation overall. The DASH diet can be all or mostly whole food plant-based.
Does the DASH diet impact late life memory issues called subjective cognitive complaints (SCCs)? A new study examined this question and gives hope!
The study included 5116 women (mean age in 1985–1991: 46 years) from the New York University Women's Health Study. SCCs were assessed from 2018 to 2020 (mean age: 79 years) by a 6-item questionnaire.
The women were subsequently followed for more than 30 years and were asked to report any cognitive issues. Self-reported cognitive complaints were evaluated using six validated questions indicative of mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to dementia.
Compared to women in the bottom quartile of the DASH scores (least adherent or the "worst" followers of the DASH diet), the risk of developing SCCs was 17% lower for women in the top quartile (most adherent or the "best" at following the diet) of DASH scores at baseline.
Greater adherence to the DASH diet in mid-life was associated with lower prevalence of late-life SCCs in women.
The DASH diet, which emphsizes the consumption of whole plant foods, focuses on a high intake of foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium while minimizing saturated fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.
One of the authors stated that “Following the DASH diet may not only prevent high blood pressure but also cognitive issues. Our data suggest that it is important to start a healthy diet in midlife to prevent cognitive impairment in older age".