How to Lower Your Risk of Dementia

At present, there’s no cure for dementia and it cannot be definitively prevented. Factors out of your control, such as age and genetics, increase your risk, but there are measures you can take to live a healthier lifestyle and potentially prevent dementia.

What is dementia?

Dementia is a cognitive disorder characterized by memory loss, difficulties with thinking and reasoning and other brain malfunctioning that interferes with daily life.

Typically, dementia starts with mild symptoms, where it’s just beginning to impede a person’s cognitive function. As the disease progresses, symptoms worsen until the onset of late-stage dementia, where a sufferer becomes totally reliant on other people to care for them.

There are numerous forms of dementia, with some of the most common among them being Alzheimer’s disease, Vascular dementia, Dementia with Lewy Body and Frontotemporal dementia.

Who is at risk of developing dementia?

Some people in society are at a higher risk of developing dementia than others. A risk factor is something that increases usapulsnetwork the chance of contracting a disease, in this case dementia. Certain risk factors cannot be changed, whilst others can.

Risk factors we cannot change


The biggest risk factor for dementia is age. The older we are, the more likely we are to suffer from medical complications that precede or accompany dementia.

Roughly a third of people aged 85 or over are currently diagnosed with dementia. However, it is important to remember dementia is not a normal part of aging, and many people live well into their 90s and 100s without getting the disease.


Hereditary genes are passed down from parents to children. Genetic disorders can be caused by the slightest changes or mutations in genes.

Genes are generally not thought to be the sole cause of dementia. Dementia typically develops due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as one’s lifestyle and diet.

Of the four most common types of dementia, frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is most likely to be exclusively caused by a single-gene variation.

Dementia caused by a single-gene variation often develops earlier in life. An affected person may develop ‘young-onset dementia’ in their 40s or 50s rather than in old age. There is typically a strong pattern of this type of dementia in families, for example a sufferer may have a sibling, grandparent and parent all with FTD. As such, dementia caused by a single-gene variation is commonly referred to as ‘familial dementia.


Research shows that American Indians, African Americans and Alaska Natives have the highest rates of dementia among the American general population.

How to reduce your risk of dementia

Whilst the complete prevention of dementia is not yet an option for us, there are a number of steps you can take to reduce your risk of dementia.


Doing regular exercise or other exertional physical activity is one of the top ways of reducing your dementia risk. Exercise helps with maintaining a healthy weight, heart, circulation and mental state.

Whilst physical exercise can seem daunting to some of us, especially if we’ve been inactive for a long time, it is important to find physical activity that works for you. Start small and then progressively add more physical activity to your routine. Aim for a mixture of aerobic activity and strength training. Combining these activities will help reduce your risk of developing dementia.

A lack of physical activity, conversely, can increase your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. All of these are risk factors for dementia.

It is recommended to sit less; regular walks and movement are advised for anyone who is regularly sedentary. Implementing small changes such as taking the stairs, walking up escalators and walking around the house when on the phone can help.

Do not smoke

If you smoke tobacco, you are increasing the likelihood of developing dementia in later life.

Smoking negatively impacts your circulation of blood to the blood vessels in your brain and damages your respiratory capacity. It is linked to numerous life-threatening medical conditions including cancer, coronary heart disease and dementia – particularly Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Quitting smoking a soon as possible is recommended. The earlier you stop, the more brain damage you may prevent.

Consult your doctor or another suitable medical professional about strategies that may help you in quitting smoking. There are also numerous tools at your disposal to aid you in quitting smoking. These provide information, resources and in some cases, tailored plans, to helping you quit smoking.

  • FDA 101: Smoking Cessation Products
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Heart Society
  • American Lung Association
  • Truth Initiative

You can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free support in your journey to living a healthy, smokefree life and reducing your risk for dementia.

Eat healthily

Eating a nutritious, healthy diet may lower your risk of dementia, as well as a host of other diseases including cancer, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

There is no one single food or nutrient that can optimize brain health on its own. Rather, eating the correct amounts of a variety of different foods over a sustained period is what makes a difference.

The following guidelines are a good place to start when thinking about how to eat healthily.

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, pulses and legumes.
  • Switch out white rice, bread and pasta for their wholemeal counterparts.
  • Eat less red meat.
  • Eat fewer processed foods.
  • Eat fish regularly – particularly oily types like mackerel or salmon.
  • Use vegetable or plant oils rather than butter for cooking.
  • Limit sugar intake.
  • Limit salt intake – no more than 6g a day.

Consume less alcohol

Excessive consumption of alcohol increases your likelihood of developing dementia. Heavy, long- term drinking can cause brain damage that leads to Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia.

Prolonged alcohol abuse can also cause specific alcohol-related dementia, including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. This is when a deficit in vitamin B1, caused by alcohol abuse, can lead to permanent memory loss if not addressed.

Some steps you can implement at home include:

  • Setting a weekly alcohol limit and keeping a count of how many drinks you’ve consumed
  • Trying low-alcohol drinks
  • Alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks whilst socializing
  • Designating days of the week where you will not drink any alcohol
  • Letting your partner, friends or family know you are limiting your alcohol intake. They can help hold you accountable to yourself.

If you are worried about yours or a loved one’s alcohol consumption, speak to your doctor about the options available to you. There are numerous support groups, both online and in person, that can help.

Staying mentally active

Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as crosswords, puzzles or other brain-engaging pursuits, can help your brain stave off disease and improve your mood.

Anything that requires focus, thinking skills and is challenging for your brain may help reduce your risk of developing dementia.

These include:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Any kind of educational class or seminar
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Undertaking a DIY project
  • Brainteasers such as puzzles and crosswords
  • Reading
  • Creative writing or journalling
  • Volunteering, e.g., in the local community or with a charity
  • Playing card games, dominos, board games or chess.

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