Can You Prevent Dementia?
A person’s risk for dementia increases with age. In fact, it doubles every 10 years after the age of 60. So, it’s natural to have questions and concerns about your increased risk of dementia as you age.
You may wonder, is there anything you can do to reduce your risk? How can you prevent dementia?
Though research is ongoing, there is currently no proven cure or one way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. However, there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk factors for developing dementia later in life.
What Are Risk Factors?
Risk factors increase the chance of someone developing a disease. Some risk factors can be controlled while others can’t. Age is the greatest known risk factor for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Genetics, race and gender are another risk factor that cannot be controlled.
What can people control? Their behavior and lifestyle – both can influence your risk for developing disease.
Though eliminating controllable risk factors from your life cannot guaranteed you’ll never develop a disease, it can significantly lower your risk. For example, lowering your blood pressure does not mean you’ll never have a heart attack, but lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure can help. Dementia is a little different.
For Alzheimer’s and other dementias, there is no one behavior or lifestyle change that researchers can point to as a factor that will definitely prevent dementia. But there are promising studies being done on several possible factors to reduce your risk.
What Is Known About Reducing The Risk For Dementia?
Age and genetics are proven risk factors of dementia, but research suggests that other factors could play a part, too.
- Hearing loss
- Untreated depression
- Loneliness or social isolation
- Sitting for most of the day
This research concluded that by changing the risk factors you are able to change, a person’s risk of dementia could be reduced by up to a third.
Most experts agree that what’s good for your heart is also good for your brain. This means you can help reduce your risk of dementia in many of the same ways you can help reduce your risk of heart disease.
What Lifestyle Changes Can Prevent Dementia?
To prevent the onset of dementia later in life, it is important to focus on the risk factors that can be controlled by changes in lifestyle.
Though these factors cannot eliminate your risk of dementia completely, studies have shown that they can help lower your chances.
Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, and increasing blood flow to your brain can help to improve brain function. It’s recommended that seniors get at least 150 minutes of exercise a week, or 30 minutes a day for five days. Even light exercise such as regular walking can decrease the risk.
Eat A Healthy Diet.
A diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can have positive effects on overall brain health, and they may help lower the risk of developing dementia. Whenever possible, choose whole grains, lean meats and seafood, unsaturated fats such as olive oil, low-fat or nonfat dairy products when available.
Stay Mentally Active.
Engaging in activities that challenge your brain, such as reading, brain games for seniors and puzzles can stimulate your brain and keep it active. Crafting, taking up a new hobby, working, volunteering and especially socializing can help to keep your mind sharp, too.
Smoking may increase your risk of developing dementia, but it definitely will increase the risk of heart attack, strong and lung disease.
Get Enough Sleep.
A good night’s rest is important for every aspect of your health, and chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia. Be sure to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
Stay Socially Active.
Staying social and engaged with family and friends can prevent social isolation and loneliness. Both isolation and loneliness can cause cognitive decline, so engaging in social activities may help lower the risk of developing dementia.
Keep Blood Pressure And Cholesterol Levels Under Control.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol have been linked to an increased risk of developing dementia. Treating high blood pressure with medication and making healthy lifestyle choices, such as exercising and quitting smoking, may help reduce the risk of dementia. Getting regular exercise, quitting smoking and checking glucose levels can help you manage your blood sugar and reduce your risk, too.
Prioritize Mental Health.
There is a direct correlation between depression and dementia; it is crucial to maintain good mental health as you age to decrease the chance of dementia.
Too much alcohol can worsen conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, memory loss and mood disorders. That’s why it’s important to drink in moderation to prevent long term effects excessive drinking can have on the brain.
While some risk factors are uncontrollable, focus on making lifestyle changes like these can help prevent dementia and memory issues.