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A good diet in your later years can reduce the risk of certain conditions. / Tim Pannell, Mint Images / Getty Images

Healthy eating, regular exercise and not smoking were linked to better self-perceived memory in a recent poll by UCLA researchers and Gallup of 18,552 U.S. adults 18 and older.

Respondents who engaged in just one healthy behavior were 21% less likely to report memory problems than those who didn’t.

Findings reinforce the importance of leading a healthy life at all ages to help limit cognitive decline, says lead author Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center.

Healthy eating keeps heart and blood vessels healthy, says Mary Ann Johnson of the American Society for Nutrition. And “the brain needs a healthy blood supply to function.”

— Cathy Payne

Healthy eating, regular exercise and not smoking were linked to better self-perceived memory in a recent poll by UCLA researchers and Gallup of 18,552 U.S. adults 18 and older. Respondents who engaged in just one healthy behavior were 21% less likely to report memory problems than those who didn’t.
Findings reinforce the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle at all ages to help limit cognitive decline, says lead author Gary Small, director of the UCLA Longevity Center.
Healthy eating likely keeps heart and blood vessels healthy, says Mary Ann Johnson, of the American Society for Nutrition. “The brain needs a healthy blood supply to function.”
— Cathy Payne

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Deeper wrinkles, saggy skin, more gray hair — those are visible signs of aging. Others are a little less obvious: Your heart has to work harder, bones become more brittle, and your brain gets a little less efficient. Studies show that a good diet in your later years can reduce the risk of certain conditions, such as heart disease and osteoporosis. And choosing the right foods can help keep your body strong, mind sharp and energy up. Some tips to help keep you healthy, well into your golden years:

Eat more fruits and veggies. New research from Sweden suggests people who do so tend to live longer. Scientists collected data from more than 71,000 adults, ages 45 to 83, over 13 years; the findings showed people who said they never ate fruits or vegetables died an average of three years sooner than those who ate lots of apples, carrots and tomatoes. As little as one serving a day has health benefits, but five is optimal. That’s because fruits and vegetables are packed with a variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. They’re low in calories to help maintain a healthy weight, and they’re loaded with fiber, which can help aid digestion and prevent constipation, common in older adults.

Cut the fat. You know saturated fat is no good for your heart; a small, new study suggests it also may be bad for your brain. Researchers found that a diet high in saturated fat can cut the body’s level of a key chemical that helps protect against Alzheimer’s disease. The science is preliminary and requires more research, but experts know saturated fat raises cholesterol levels in your blood, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Saturated fats are found in beef, butter and ice cream, as well as baked goods and fried foods.

Use fat-free or low-fat dairy. The calcium and vitamin D content is the same, without the extra fat. Milk, yogurt and cheese are high in calcium; that’s important in seniors’ diets, because bones tend to shrink in size and density with age, which makes them more susceptible to fracture. Some dark, leafy green vegetables, such as kale and broccoli, contain calcium, as does canned salmon with bones. Sardines provide calcium and vitamin D. Some cereals and juices are fortified with calcium. If you don’t think you’re getting enough from your diet, talk to your doctor before adding any supplements to your diet.

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