Reduce the Risk of Dementia with These 12 Habits

27 March, 2021
One of the most striking things about the brain is its plasticity. This means that it's never too late to make changes to boost your well-being and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

In this article, we share 12 habits that could reduce the risk of dementia. It doesn’t matter how old you are or the lifestyle you’ve led. In fact, they’re changes that’ll boost your well-being and brain health.

Neuroscientist David Eagleman pointed out in his book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain that we spend our lives feeling worried, anxious, and bored, not realizing that we’re one of the luckiest creatures in the world. We don’t appreciate the sophistication of our neurological universe and how amazing human beings are, as they have one of nature’s most exceptional organs.

Your brain doesn’t just contain who you are, it contains what you might become. One of its fundamental characteristics is its plasticity. Plasticity is the process whereby the brain is able to adapt and change, which allows you to increase your cognitive knowledge and learn new things.

A happy woman, who has adopted the 12 habits to reduce dementia.

Studies on how to reduce the risk of dementia

People tend to associate dementia with elderly people and Alzheimer’s disease. You probably consider it a disease your parents or grandparents might suffer from when they’re 70. However, experts now know that neurodegenerative illnesses start much earlier.

Experts on this subject, such as Dr. Lisa Mosconi of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York-Presbyterian claim that everyone should try to curb the onset of cognitive decline. The medical journal The Lancet also published a particularly interesting study on the subject.

In this study, a group of 28 experts conducted an exhaustive research analysis. They concluded that some lifestyle habits could reduce the risk of developing dementia by up to 40 percent. Therefore, since we all want a life free from cognitive decline, you should consider adopting these scientifically-proven healthy habits.

The 12 habits to adopt to reduce the risk of dementia

1. Control your blood pressure

Hypertension is a silent and deadly enemy. In fact, it not only puts your cardiovascular health at risk but also alters the blood flow to your brain. To control your blood pressure, you should:

  • Reduce your salt intake.
  • Check your blood pressure regularly. If necessary, take drugs to control it.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle by exercising regularly.
  • Keep your anxiety and daily stress levels under control.

2. Don’t smoke and be wary of secondhand smoke

Everyone knows the harmful health effects of smoking. However, as well as the risk of cancer, cigarettes also have a harmful effect on your brain.

Nevertheless, it isn’t enough just to quit smoking yourself. You must also make sure you don’t expose yourself to the second-hand smoke of others who do still smoke.

3. Reduce your alcohol intake

Alcohol consumption is a major problem in society today. Furthermore, excessive alcohol consumption prevents your brain from producing new neurons, reduces its functionality, and increases the risk of psychological disorders, as well as dementia.

4. Avoid pollution

This habit might not be as easy to adopt as the others. However, living in a pollution-free environment reduces the risk of disease and cognitive decline. Therefore, you should try to spend as much time as you can in pollution-free environments. Heavily polluted areas have a negative impact on your brain.

5. Increase your cognitive reserve

Cognitive reserve is the neuropsychological construct that allows you to cope with age-related brain changes or illness. In fact, something as simple as staying intellectually active increases this reserve and strengthens your neurological connections. This means that the effects of aging on your brain will be less noticeable.

For this reason, don’t forget to feed your curiosity, learn new things every day, read, have enriching conversations, and practice memory games. Do anything that’s cognitively stimulating.

6. Maintain a healthy weight

Obesity is a risk factor for many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. However, over time, obesity also increases the higher risk of dementia. For this reason, you shouldn’t hesitate to seek expert help to maintain a healthy weight.

7. Be aware of the link between depression and dementia

Studies, such as the one conducted at the University of Cambridge 35 years ago, show a link between depression and dementia. It suggests that those who suffer from untreated major depression have a higher risk of developing cognitive decline.

For this reason, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help if you suffer from depression.

8. Try to avoid falls, accidents, and injuries

Head injuries can cause serious and permanent damage to the brain.

One of the most common causes of this type of trauma is car accidents. Therefore, you should always drive carefully and make sure to wear a seatbelt.

A diagram showing workings of the brain.

9. Don’t ignore hearing loss

Always address any hearing loss. This isn’t a minor issue. For example, it’s linked to depression, and these two conditions, when not treated, can lead to social isolation. This can result in mental decline, which is quite unnecessary, as it could easily be avoided with the use of hearing aids.

10. Prevent diabetes

Diabetes increases the risk of vascular dementia. Remember that type 2 diabetes could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Reducing your sugar intake, taking care of your diet, and exercising regularly will help restore a healthy balance.

11. Exercise

You don’t need to become an athlete. Just taking a half-hour walk every day is enough. Furthermore, swimming, dancing, and cycling, among other sports, could also reduce the risk of dementia.

12. Have a social life

This is very important. Spending time with your friends and having interesting conversations and experiences will boost your well-being.

In addition, having a partner who shares your interests will also keep you active, happy, and optimistic.

In short, all of these tips will help you both maintain and restore your mental and brain health. Don’t hesitate to adopt them today!

  • Gill Livingston, Jonathan Huntley, Andrew Sommerlad, David Ames, Clive Ballard, Sube Banerjee, Carol Brayne (2020) Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission. The LancetVol. 396No. 10248 Published: July 30, 2020. Doi DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30367-6
  • Holmquist S, Nordström A, Nordström P (2020) The association of depression with subsequent dementia diagnosis: A Swedish nationwide cohort study from 1964 to 2016. PLoS Med 17(1): e1003016. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003016