How to Prevent Dementia: Is It Possible?

Medically Reviewed By Heidi Moawad, M.D.

It’s not always possible to prevent dementia. However, eating a nutritious diet, being physically active, avoiding smoking, and improving brain health may reduce risk. This article discusses the possibility of preventing dementia. It also explains the risk factors for developing the condition and how to reduce your risk.

Key facts

  • Dementia cannot always be prevented.
  • Risk factors for dementia include age, genetics, and lifestyle habits, such as smoking, eating habits, and not getting enough physical activity.
  • You can reduce your risk of developing dementia by exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding smoking.

Can you prevent dementia?

Younger female hugging an older female
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There is currently no definitive way to prevent dementia. Medical professionals are still unclear on the exact causes of the condition.

Still, there are ways to reduce your risk. A healthy lifestyle may lessen your risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as stroke and heart attacks. Both are known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

A healthy lifestyle includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and avoiding smoking.

Read more about dementia.

What are the risk factors for dementia?

There are certain risk factors for dementia that you cannot control. These include:

  • Age: The older you get, the more at risk you are. However, dementia is not a necessary part of aging.
  • Genetics: The full genetics of dementia are not fully understood. However, having a family history of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia may put you at a higher risk. It does not guarantee you will develop dementia, though.

Other risk factors of dementia are controllable. These include:

How can you reduce the risk of dementia?

Living a healthy lifestyle and improving your brain health can help reduce your risk of dementia.

Ways to reduce your risk of dementia include:

Physical activity

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source recommends adults get 150 minutes of physical activity each week. This can be broken down into 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. An inactive lifestyle has been shown to put people at a higher risk of developing dementia.

Getting exercise on most days is more effective than only one or two days. However, if it is not practical, you do not have to get the same amount of activity each day.

Avoid smoking

Smoking narrows your arteries, which can raise your blood pressure. It can also put you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease. This all puts you at higher risk for dementia as well.

Smoking can also make the arteries in the heart or brain more prone to cholesterol plaques and blood clots. This can cause strokes.

Maintain a moderate weight

Having overweight or obesity can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, all of which can increase your risk of dementia.

Eat a nutritious diet

A diet that includes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and limits salt and saturated fats can decrease your risk of other medical conditions that can increase your risk of dementia.

Limit your intake of alcohol

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and liver failure. This can also lead to damage to the brain, increasing your risk of developing dementia.

Excessive alcohol use can also lead to malnutrition due to its effects on nutrient absorption. This can result in vitamin deficiencies that can contribute to dementia.

Prevent and correct hearing loss

Hearing loss can increase Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source your risk of dementia. Preventing hearing loss or taking steps to correct it can reduce this risk.

Stay mentally active

Engaging in activities that keep you mentally active can decrease your risk of developing dementia. These may include crosswords or other puzzles, arts and crafts, or reading books.

Seek support

There is a link between untreated depression and dementia. Depression is a treatable mental health condition. Seeking treatment for depression can help you engage more in mentally stimulating activities and decrease your risk of developing dementia.

What are the symptoms of dementia?

The symptoms of dementia may vary Trusted Source National Institute on Aging Governmental authority Go to source depending on the type you are experiencing. Common symptoms of dementia include:

  • memory loss, confusion, and poor judgment
  • difficulty speaking, reading, and writing, or expressing and understanding thoughts
  • getting lost in a familiar place or wandering
  • repeating questions
  • taking longer to complete typical daily tasks
  • losing interest in daily activities or events
  • hallucinating or experiencing delusions
  • acting impulsively
  • losing balance or having difficulty moving
  • having difficulty caring about the feelings of others

Other frequently asked questions

Heidi Moawad, M.D., has reviewed some frequently asked questions about dementia.

What is the main cause of dementia?

Dementia is due to changes in specific regions of the brain that cause nerve cells and their connections to stop working properly. Further research is being done to find out why these changes happen to some people and not others.

What age does dementia start?

Dementia typically affects people 65 and older. Age is one of the main risk factors for dementia. However, dementia is not an inherent part of aging.

What foods protect against dementia?

A healthy and balanced diet can reduce your risk of developing dementia. Eating more fruits and vegetables and foods high in omega-3s and antioxidants can also help reduce your risk.

Summary

It is not always possible to prevent dementia. This is mainly due to more knowledge needed on exactly what causes some people to develop dementia.

Even though it may not be preventable, you can reduce your risk of developing dementia. Regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding smoking can help lower your risk.

If you have concerns about your risk factors or believe you may be developing dementia, speak with a doctor.

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Medical Reviewer: Heidi Moawad, M.D.
Last Review Date: 2023 Jan 18
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