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Nutrition Feature Article

It's no secret that as you age you'll want to "be able to flame out at the finish line, still being able to see, hear, smell, taste, feel and think your way independently in the world," says Steven Prat, M.D., author of the new book "SuperHealth." In his book you'll find some of the resources necessary to safeguard your senses so that life doesn't have to lose its vibrancy as you age. According to Dr. Pratt, there is a direct relationship between the health of your senses and the health of your body. In fact, studies presented in the book have shown when people have cataracts and macular degeneration they also have a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease and premature death. Nutrition is the cornerstone of keeping your senses intact and your brain in tip-top shape.

Below, Dr. Pratt explains the six foods that can preserve your health and fight brain aging, and in turn, protect your senses. Plus, he covers unhealthy lifestyle habits to kick and beneficial mental and physical exercises to adopt to avoid overall aging-related brain and body decline.

Pomegranates

This fruit packs a punch when it comes to stellar health and preventing hearing loss. "We've heard the warnings about keeping blood pressure in check for cardiovascular health but high blood pressure also puts you at risk for degenerative eye diseases and decreased cognitive abilities," says Dr. Pratt. In fact, pomegranates are known as phytochemical powerhouses since they have two to three times the antioxidant power of green tea or red wine. Plus, they possess anti-inflammatory chemicals. "This is one reason why they have been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. It also appears that pomegranate juice might be helpful in preventing certain types of hearing loss." His advice? Drink one half to one cup of 100 percent pomegranate juice five to seven days per week.

Blueberries

"Berries are good for the brain. Research has shown that blueberries can help to protect the brain against oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which play important roles in brain aging," explains Dr. Pratt. Studies have demonstrated that a diet rich in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agents found in blueberries (as well as cranberries, strawberries, purple grapes and raspberries) may lower the risk of developing age-related neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. To get the full benefits eat one to two cups of blueberries on a daily basis.

Walnuts

Because of the link between walnuts and eye health Dr. Pratt recommends snacking on one handful of these powerhouse nuts five times each week. A study published in the "Archives of Ophthalmology" found that walnuts can help prevent the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). He explains, "The study showed that patients who ate more than one serving of nuts a week decreased their risk of AMD progression by more than fifty percent." In addition, walnuts have a high concentration of good-for-your-brain omega-3 fats. They're also rich in melatonin, which is an important immune system booster.

Spinach

Whether you eat one cup steamed or two cups raw five to seven days each week, Popeye would be proud. After all, spinach is rich in carotenoids and anti-oxidants that act as anti-inflammatories. Spinach also helps preserve our muscles, protect our brain, strengthen the immune system and prevent cardiovascular disease. "Carotenoids also reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. Both carotenoids and anti-oxidants are found in spinach and other green leafy vegetables and offer a powerful reduction of the risk of these ailments by protecting the retina from free radical damage, which can promote the onset of macular degeneration."

Almonds

"Itís important to consume foods that are rich in vitamin E, which is excellent for brain, eye and hearing health," says Dr. Pratt. Eating just one layer of these nuts from the palm of your hand five times a week will provide an excellent source of Vitamin E. A study published in the "Journal of the American Dietetic Association" confirmed that eating almonds significantly increased Vitamin E levels in the blood and red blood cells. Almonds also helped lower cholesterol levels. His recommendation? Eat raw almonds or ones that have been dry roasted instead of cooked in oil.

Oranges

This juicy fruit offers a valuable source of Vitamin C. Plus, itís rich in folate or folic acid, which is a B vitamin. Dr. Pratt explains, "One role of folate is to help our bodies process the amino acid homocysteine. High homocysteine has also been associated with increased risk for macular degeneration and cardiovascular disease." When folate is lacking, homocysteine is not broken down which can lead to inflammation and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, degenerative eye disease and Alzheimer's. "I recommend one medium sized orange or half a cup of orange juice daily."

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