And improve your finances at the same time
Ric Edelman: It's Tuesday, February 21st. Let me ask you, what did you eat for dinner last night? Did you eat ultra-processed foods - sausages, burgers, pizza, ice cream?
Look, we all know that lots of studies have found that highly processed foods raise the risk that you'll suffer obesity, diabetes, even cancer. Well, now a new study says processed foods also increase your risk of dementia. Researchers in Brazil followed 10,000 people in their 40s and 50s for 10 years, and those who consumed more than 20% of their daily calories from ultra-processed foods had cognitive decline 28% faster than people who didn't have such diets. The problem is 20% of your diet is not a high number. If you eat 2,000 calories a day, we're talking only 400 calories. That's a burger and a candy bar.
In addition to the fact that what you eat can increase your risk of getting Alzheimer's, there's now growing evidence that viruses can increase your risk as well. And that includes COVID, herpes and Epstein-Barr. Oxford's Institute of Population Aging and Tufts University just published a study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. They found that the common herpes virus, HSV-1, could trigger dementia by interacting with the virus that causes chickenpox and shingles. When they looked at people 65 and older who have respiratory infections and who got COVID, 4.5% of them developed dementia over the next two years, there was a third more than the rest of the population.
People with the gene APOE4 appear to be particularly vulnerable. The Epstein-Barr virus has already been implicated in multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's, and we're still new to COVID. So you can be sure they'll be looking at this for the next decade.
Neurologists from 25 countries have already set up a consortium with the Alzheimer's Association to study this. And if that's not enough, researchers now also think that head trauma could trigger Alzheimer's disease. Clinical trials underway at Columbia and the New York State Psychiatric Institute are hoping to produce results by the end of the year. So if you want to avoid cognitive decline, watch what you eat. Avoid head injuries and avoid COVID, herpes and Epstein-Barr. (Like you have any control over those.)
But researchers say there's another way you can protect yourself. Don't retire. A study from Binghamton University has found that early retirement can accelerate cognitive decline. Staying at work keeps your brain sharp. We don't get lazy just watching the tube. And a study of older people, some still working and others retired, they found that retirees had a nearly 2% decrease in general intelligence.
You want to stay smart? Keep listening to this podcast and keep on working.