OCT 22, 2023 4:12 PM PDT

DASH Diet May Reduce Risk of Cognitive Decline in Women

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

The DASH diet, which aims to lower blood pressure, may reduce cognitive decline risk among women in late life. The corresponding study was published in Alzheimer's and Dementia.

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet emphasizes plant-based foods high in potassium, calcium, and magnesium and minimizes foods high in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar. 

Research suggests that health conditions such as hypertension increase the risk of cognitive decline in later life. Some early research also suggests that lifestyle measures to reduce hypertension may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. For example, one study found that long-term adherence to the DASH diet is linked to a lower risk of severe subjective cognitive decline in later life among women. 

To understand more about the potential link between diet and cognitive decline, researchers in the current study analyzed healthcare data from 5116 women who were followed for over 30 years. Participant diets were assessed via a food frequency questionnaire at the start of the study when they were an average of 46 years old. Subjective cognitive complaints were then assessed later on when participants were an average of 79 years old.

Ultimately, the researchers found that 33% of women reported more than one cognitive complaint in their later years. They further noted, however, that the women who adhered most closely to the DASH diet were 17% less likely to report multiple cognitive complaints. 

"Our data suggest that it is important to start a healthy diet in midlife to prevent cognitive impairment in older age", said lead author of the study, Yixiao Song, from the Department of Population Health at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, in a press release

"Following the DASH diet may not only prevent high blood pressure, but also cognitive issues," added co-lead author of the study, Fen Wu, Ph.D., a senior associate research scientist also from the Department of Population Health at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine in the same press release

The researchers noted their findings are limited as they only assessed dietary intake at baseline, and much of their data was gathered via self-reports. They added that the study did not account for certain confounders that could have affected the results, such as social and cognitive engagement, sleep, and physical activity. They further noted that future research should incorporate diverse racial and ethnic groups to determine the generalizability of their findings. 


Sources: NeuroscienceAlzheimer's and Dementia

About the Author
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
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