Reducing Your Dementia Risk: Lifestyle Changes That Can Make a Difference

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There are several modifiable lifestyle factors that can impact your dementia risk

Dementia refers to a group of symptoms associated with decline in memory, problem-solving, and overall cognitive function. While age is the strongest known risk factor, research has identified several other modifiable lifestyle factors that can impact your dementia risk. Making certain changes and adopting healthier habits may help lower your chances of developing dementia.

Diet Quality

Poor diet is linked to higher dementia risk. Specifically, heavy consumption of processed and high-fat foods can negatively affect brain health. Some tips:

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish, and healthy oils like olive oil
  • Limit red and processed meats, fried foods, refined carbs, and sweets
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Consider the Mediterranean diet or MIND diet which emphasize dementia-fighting foods

Physical Activity

Regular exercise helps reduce dementia risk by benefiting cardiovascular health and improving blood flow to the brain. Aim for:

  • 150 minutes per week of moderate activity like brisk walking or gentle cycling
  • 2-3 sessions per week of strength training
  • Simple daily activities like housework, gardening, taking the stairs

Hearing and Vision

Uncorrected hearing loss and vision changes like cataracts have been linked to cognitive decline and dementia. Be proactive about:

  • Getting annual eye exams and updating prescriptions
  • Treating hearing loss with aids – even mild impairment can impact cognition
  • Improving lighting, using visual aids like large displays, and removing trip hazards

Environmental Exposures

Air pollution, heavy metals, pesticides and other toxins have been shown to increase risk. Ways to reduce exposure:

  • Use air purifiers at home and masks when outside
  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Choose organic produce when possible
  • Check home for lead, radon gas, asbestos

Managing Stress

Chronic stress negatively impacts the brain over time. Prioritize:

  • Daily relaxation practices like meditation, yoga, deep breathing
  • Good sleep habits and getting 7-8 hours per night
  • Social connection through family, friends, community groups
  • Talk therapy, support groups, or life coaching

While genetics and age play a role, adopting lifestyle changes in diet, exercise, environment, and stress management can help reduce your dementia risk. Consult your doctor for guidance on developing a prevention plan tailored to your needs and health status. Small steps can go a long way in promoting long-term brain health.

About the Author: Gary Skole