Strawberries may help ward off dementia and depression — and other healthy tips you might have missed this week

There’s so much health and wellness news out there. Here are some of this week’s health headlines and what you can take away from them to improve your health.

EAT … strawberries for breakfast

A daily dose of strawberries may help fight off signs of depression and dementia in midlife, according to new research from the University of Cincinnati.

The study, recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Nutrients, looked at patients 50 to 65 who were overweight (with a BMI of 25 or greater) and had symptoms of mild cognitive decline. Researchers found that participants who consumed two servings of freeze-dried, whole-fruit strawberry powder in their water every morning for 12 weeks experienced fewer symptoms of depression, better emotional control, improved problem solving and “reduced memory interference” on word memorization tests.

“The findings support the notion that strawberry supplementation has a role in dementia risk reduction when introduced in midlife,” the authors of the study wrote of the powerful berries, noting that each packet of strawberry powder “contained 13 g, providing 36.8 mg anthocyanins derived from 130 g whole fruit and equivalent to about 1 [cup] whole fresh strawberries, which is designated as a standard serving by the California Strawberry Commission.”

So why stop at breakfast? The antioxidant-rich fruit also packs a punch in other ways — such as boosting your immune system, guarding against heart disease and stroke, and managing blood sugar.

VISIT … friends and family

Never being visited by friends or family is associated with an increased risk of dying, according to a study recently published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Medicine.

The study, based in the United Kingdom, used data from participants recruited between 2006 and 2010 with a mean age of 56.5. The participants answered questions on how often they were able to confide in someone close to them, how often they felt lonely, how often they were visited by friends and family, how often they participated in a weekly group activity and whether they lived alone. After following up years later, researchers found that the frequency of weekly group activities and visits from family and friends, and whether participants lived alone, had the strongest association with mortality; never being visited by friends or family was associated with a 39% increased risk of death.

Loneliness is an international problem, with the World Health Organization recently launching “the first global initiative to tackle the epidemic of loneliness.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that social isolation is associated with myriad health problems, including dementia and heart disease. In fact, loneliness may be even worse for heart health than a bad diet or smoking, according to a study published earlier this year.

BUY … an electric toothbrush for your kid

Worried about your youngster’s sloppy brushing? An electric toothbrush may make the difference.

New research published in the International Journal of Paediatric Dentistry found that oscillating-rotating electric toothbrushes were significantly more effective than manual toothbrushes at reducing plaque and gingivitis in kids ages 3 to 10. After a four-week trial conducted by the Hebrew University-Hadassah Faculty of Dental Medicine in Israel, 55.7% of kids 3 to 6 experienced greater whole-mouth plaque reduction and 34.3% greater back-of-the-mouth plaque reduction; for children ages 7 to 10, the improvement was 94.5% for the whole mouth and 108.4% for the back of the mouth.

STOP … eating so much salt

By eliminating one teaspoon of salt from your diet per day, in as little as one week you can lower your blood pressure as effectively as some common blood pressure medications.

In a recent study, researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center assigned participants ages 50 to 70 to either a high-sodium diet (2,200 mg per day) or a low-sodium diet (500 mg per day, or about one teaspoon less than the high-sodium diet) for one week. Participants then switched to the opposite diet for one week.

“We found that 70 to 75% of all people, regardless of whether they are already on blood pressure medications or not, are likely to see a reduction in their blood pressure if they lower the sodium in their diet,” Norrina Allen, co-principal investigator of the study, said.

The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of 2,300 mg of sodium per day, and ideally no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. Most of the sodium in our diets comes from packaged or processed foods such as breads, pizza and cold cuts, but natural foods like cheese and poultry also have above-average sodium content.

THINK … positively about aging

Researchers at the New Jersey Institute for Successful Aging at Rowan University found that having a positive outlook on aging was associated with living longer.

The study, which analyzed data from 2006 to 2008 of 5,483 New Jersey residents ages 50 to 74, found a link between scores for subjective successful aging (SSA) — or how people feel about their aging experience — and the risk of dying within nine years. Those with a low SSA score had a 45% chance of dying within nine years, while those with a high SSA score had a lower than 10% chance of dying.

“My research provides a new and helpful way to understand the link between how people feel about their aging experience and mortality,” said Rachel Pruchno, who led the study.

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