Okea / Getty Images

Women make up two thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's

Arielle Weg
June 07, 2018

In honor of Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month we’re looking for ways we can incorporate more brain-boosting foods into our diets. After all, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. The disease currently affects 5.7 million Americans and kills more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, according to the American Alzheimer’s Association.

And unfortunately this number is only growing. The American Alzheimer’s Association predicts this number will rise to 14 million by 2050. But—for women, especially—there are ways to incorporate the right kinds of foods and potentially lower the risk.

This is important, as women make up nearly two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease. Research has predicted Alzheimer’s is especially prevalent in women because it is related to menopause, when the hormone, estrogen, drops drastically.

RELATED: What Brain Experts Eat for Better Brain Health

Some research has suggested women can lower their risk by incorporating foods that mimic estrogen, which may help ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Foods like soy, legumes, flaxseed, sesame seeds, apricots, oats, and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli may have that ability, Today reports.

It is better to consume these as whole foods, not in processed snacks like a protein bar. And you should always discuss any diet changes with your doctor: Consuming foods that mimic estrogen may have negative effects on some forms of breast cancer.

RELATED: Your Daily Glass of Wine Could Improve Brain Health, According to New Study

The American Alzheimer’s Association suggests additional research is needed on preventing Alzheimer’s, but a number of studies have led scientists to believe regular physical activity and a healthy diet can also improve brain health, and possibly ward off the disease. Studies have shown diets focused on heart health, like the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet, have shown to be beneficial to the brain.

The DASH diet incorporates high amounts of vegetables, fruit, fat-free or low-fat dairy, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetables oil. The diet limits sodium, sweets, sugary beverages, and red meats.

Similarly, the Mediterranean diet limits red meats and encourages consuming whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, shellfish, nuts, olive oil, and healthy fats.

Studies have found a combination of these diets, called the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay (MIND) can lower risk for Alzheimer’s by as much as 53 percent when followed strictly, and by 35 percent even when followed moderately, according to Today.

This diet focuses on increasing consumption of berries, nuts, green leafy vegetables, beans, whole grains, olive oil, fish, and moderate consumption of wine and poultry. The diet suggests limiting intake of red meat, sugar, high fat dairy, and fried foods. We recommend starting out with these Greek-inspired dishes or this Mediterranean diet meal plan