Plant power


If the prospect of a long, healthy life isn’t enough to get you to put down the doughnuts, pick up an apple and go for a walk, maybe this is: The same regimen that keeps your ticker ticking and your arteries unclogged, also will help to keep your memory intact.

America has witnessed an explosion of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other ailments over the past 50 years. Salt, sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, super-sized portions, and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle are largely to blame.

One in three adults in Lucas County is obese, according to the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Nearly three in 10 do almost nothing. More than than a third of Lucas County children age 2 and older are overweight or obese.

Dr. Neal Barnard was in Toledo last week to tell local residents that their diet and exercise choices can also increase the likelihood of memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s. A diet low in saturated and trans fats and high in nuts, berries, and vegetables — along with regular exercise —improves brain function.

Removing saturated and trans fats from diets also reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 80 percent or more. And nuts, seeds, and many vegetables can reduce the Alzheimer’s risk even more.

The best diet for your brain, he says, is to become a vegetarian. Replacing even some of the bad brain food with good brain food increases protection against memory loss. Moderate, daily exercise improves oxygen flow, which keeps brain cells alert.

The benefits don’t stop there. Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s can cost $70,000 a year. A healthier lifestyle reduces medical costs for Alzheimer’s and other ailments, saving thousands of dollars a year. It also saves the government millions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid expenses.

Unfortunately, many foods are made to appeal to the brain’s pleasure centers, turning people into food addicts. In poor neighborhoods, fast-food restaurants that serve high-fat processed foods are cheaper and easier to find than grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables.

By taking charge of your physical and mental health, you’ll live a longer, healthier, and more independent life.