The Same Risk Factors Contribute to Depression, Anxiety, and Cardiovascular Disease
A Healthy Diet and a Healthy Mind
The last post discussed my personal struggle with a major illness that frequently leads to depression and anxiety. Depression and anxiety are the leading causes of disability for young adults in the US. This site is about the relationship between chronic diseases and aging. American consume fast and processed foods that increase obesity and contain high levels of fat, saturated fat, sugar, salt, and processed carbohydrate. That diet increases cardiovascular and related diseases like diabetes. These foods are high in calories and deficient in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They represent on average 30% of our dietary intake. They are also a risk factor for anxiety and depression. Eating whole, real food reduces the risk. More consistently eating a Mediterranean diet also reduced depression.
The reasons diet, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, and depression are linked is even more fascinating to me. These conditions share the same biology and risk factors. Diet regulates key biological processes that “underscore mood disorders, including brain plasticity and function, the stress response system, mitochondria, inflammation, and oxidative processes.”. Processed and fast foods are associated with increased markers of systemic inflammation. More evidence that inflammation causes depression is suggested by recent data showing that higher levels of markers of inflammation are independent risk factors for a depressive episode. People who are depressed have increased inflammation, an activated stress response system, and increased oxidant production. On the other hand, whole foods and the Mediterranean diet wholefood diet provide protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and micronutrients that are antioxidants and anti-inflammatory which are critical to healthy brain function.
There are so many different diets that it confuses everyone—the diabetes diet, the DASH diet, low fat, low carb and on and on. A diet that can prolong your healthy life is simple. Eat whole real food like lean meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, and nuts. Use extra virgin olive oil. Avoid sugar. If you are heavy, have diabetes, high triglycerides cut way back on carbs. That’s all there is to it. Your physical and mental health will improve.
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