Although factors such as genes, gender, race, and age are not within control, there are things that can be done to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Individuals can make lifestyle changes to reduce their risks of developing dementia, and systemic societal changes can be made to reduce the incidence of dementia in a community.
There is growing research evidence that supports the link between 12 factors, which are written about later in this article, and the risk of developing dementia. Though these risk factors are not direct causes of dementia, addressing all of them may potentially prevent or delay up to 40% of potential cases of the development of dementia cases.
12 Modifiable Risk Factors of Dementia
Smoking greatly increases the risk of developing dementia in addition to creating complications for the lungs and heart, while increasing the risk of other conditions, including type 2 diabetes, stroke, lung cancer, and other cancers.
Excessive Alcohol Consumption
Infrequent Social Contact
Of all the ways to reduce the risk of dementia, engaging in frequent social activity may be the most enjoyable. It is well established that social interaction may delay the onset of dementia.
Though the research literature on which specific types of social activity reduce dementia risk is still developing, some theories suggest that social engagement may benefit brain health via brain stimulation, staving off dementia and depression in the process.
The potential benefits of social contact on cutting dementia risk adds more reason to common experience of how social activity enriches lives. Some ways of engaging in activity include: joining a club or neighbourhood social activity, meeting friends for a meal, or volunteering.
Lower Levels of Educational Attainment
A low level of educational attainment in early life is one of the most significant risk factors for dementia. It is recommended that policy priorities childhood education for all.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Depression, Loneliness and Social Isolation
In any case, it is important to manage and treat depression because it is associated with increased disability, physical illness
Watch and Learn the A, B, C, Ds to preventing Dementia today!
Source: Agency for Integrated Care
Additional Ways to Lower Dementia Risk
Mindful Mind Food
There is truth in the saying that you are what you eat, especially when it comes to reducing dementia risk. Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet not only makes one feel well, but also helps to reduce dementia risk, amongst other health issues like diabetes and heart disease. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, unrefined cereals, grains, omega-3 fatty acids (commonly found in oily fish and nuts), and with less red meat may promote overall health and offset or delay the development of dementia. When in doubt, however, approach your doctor for more advice on making healthier dietary choices for a healthier brain.
Keep Your Mind Active – Brain Games
Just as exercise is highly beneficial for physical health, cognitive activities are also good for brain function and reduce the risk of developing dementia. According to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), experiments conducted on both animals and humans showed that mentally stimulating activities are related to measurable improvements in brain vascular health, and in both brain structure and function.5 Another research report from the Rush Memory and Aging Project reports that cognitive stimulating activities (including reading and writing) in a group of 300 cognitively healthy men and women were associated with a slower cognitive decline in the six years prior to death.6 The above evidence suggests that engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, playing bridge or chess, or doing puzzles (Sudoku, crosswords, etc.) may offset or delay the development of dementia.
There is evidence that a healthy heart benefits a healthy brain.
According to Meharvan Singh, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Pharmacology & Neuroscience, the brain receives approximately 15% of cardiac output, meaning that compromised cardiovascular function would reduce supply of blood (and thus oxygen) to the brain. Other research has shown that an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes can increase the chances of developing dementia.
A 2016 study by the University of Southern California found that statins, which are a kind of medication designed to help those with heart conditions, may play an additional role in protecting the brain from dementia.
Adopting a healthy lifestyle by keeping active, eating a healthy and balanced diet, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, and engaging in social activities, together promote good brain health, and can keep dementia as well as other diseases like stroke and heart attack at bay.
Some content is reproduced with permission from Alzheimer’s Disease International’s article on Risk Factors and Risk Reduction.
- Ahlskog, J. E., Geda, Y. E., Graff-Radford, N. R., & Petersen, R. C. (2011). Physical exercise as a preventive or disease-modifying treatment of dementia and brain aging. Mayo Clinic proceedings, 86(9), 876–884. https://doi.org/10.4065/mcp.2011.0252
- Alzheimer’s Disease International. (2014, July 9). Smoking increases risk of dementia. https://www.alzint.org/news/smoking-increases-risk-of-dementia/
- Geneva: World Health Organization. (2019). Risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia: WHO guidelines. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/312180/9789241550543-eng.pdf?ua=1
- Crooks, V. C., Lubben, J., Petitti, D. B., Little, D., & Chiu, V. (2008). Social network, cognitive function, and dementia incidence among elderly women. American journal of public health, 98(7), 1221–1227. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2007.115923
- Albanese, E., Guerchet, M., Prince, M., & Prina, M. (2014). World Alzheimer report 2014: Dementia and risk reduction: An analysis of protective and modifiable factors. Alzheimer’s Disease International. https://www.alzint.org/u/WorldAlzheimerReport2014.pdf
- Bennett, D. A., Schneider, J. A., Buchman, A. S., Barnes, L. L., Boyle, P. A., & Wilson, R. S. (2012). Overview and findings from the rush Memory and Aging Project. Current Alzheimer research, 9(6), 646–663. https://doi.org/10.2174/156720512801322663