Yes, you can reduce your risk of dementia

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - UnSplash

Five things you can control can help keep you healthy

People who are middle-aged and older often worry about the risk of developing dementia as they age. While there are diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, that contribute to cognitive impairment, some lifestyle factors under your control can also contribute to dementia.

According to the Mayo Clinic, dementia is caused by damage to or loss of nerve cells and their connections in the brain. Since symptoms are often connected to the portion of the brain that is damaged, dementia can affect patients in different ways.

But there are many things you can do to reduce your risk, by taking part in certain activities and avoiding others.

Diet and exercise

The research conducted in this area has been fairly consistent. If you have what is generally considered to be a healthy lifestyle, that lowers your dementia risk.

A healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise, and it doesn’t have to be especially vigorous. Daily walks can help pump blood to the brain and deliver oxygen throughout the body.

With exercise, a healthy diet has been shown to counter cognitive decline. People who eat a diet that includes fish, vegetables, fruits and oil not only have better health but tend to have sharper memories.

“While no specific diet is known to reduce dementia risk, research indicates that those who follow a Mediterranean style diet rich in produce, whole grains, nuts and seeds have better cognitive function,” the Clinic says on its website.

Alcohol consumption

Drinking too much alcohol poses a number of physical problems. For example, it has been associated with heart and cancer risks.

The Mayo Clinic points out that there have been several large studies and reviews pointing to alcohol use disorders as increasing the risk of dementia, particularly early-onset dementia.


Obesity, and related health issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and the buildup of fats in the artery walls have all been linked to an elevated risk of dementia.

Also, having diabetes can increase the risk of dementia, especially if it's not properly controlled. Smoking can cause damage to blood vessels and that, in turn, can increase the risk of dementia.

Vitamins and nutrients

As you age, your body needs a sufficient level of daily nutrients. Researchers have found that low levels of vitamin D, vitamin B-6, vitamin B-12 and folate can increase the risk of dementia.

A daily vitamin supplement, along with a healthy diet, may help. Ask your doctor if a supplement is recommended.

Certain medications

As we have recently reported, researchers have linked some common over-the-counter medications with an increased risk of dementia. 

Despite the lack of conclusive evidence, two of the classes bandied around the most as having a strong link to a risk of dementia are anticholinergics and benzodiazepines. 

Anticholinergics are drugs related to acetylcholine, a chemical in our brains that starts to fade away as we age and, because of that, is used to treat things like urinary incontinence, overactive bladder (OAB), and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). 

In one study, older adults who took the minimum effective dose of anticholinergic medications for at least three years were at highest risk. 

Also, limit sedatives and sleeping tablets. Talk to a healthcare professional about whether any of the medicines you take might make your memory worse.

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