Dementia is commonly diagnosed in later stages of life, often in people aged 65 and older. However, the processes leading to its development could be beginning much earlier. Research indicates that the accumulation of risk factors and lifestyle habits in midlife, such as diet, exercise, stress management, and social engagement, significantly impacts brain health and can influence the likelihood of developing dementia later on. Therefore, taking proactive steps to promote brain health and mitigate risk factors starting in one’s 40s is crucial in the fight against dementia. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent dementia, research suggests that certain lifestyle choices and habits can significantly reduce the risk. By adopting proactive measures, middle-aged adults can enhance brain health and potentially stave off cognitive decline later in life.

10 ways to reduce the risk of a dementia diagnosis

  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: Consuming a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides essential nutrients that support brain function. Avoiding excessive sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods helps reduce the risk of conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, which are associated with cognitive decline.
  • Stay Physically Active: Regular exercise not only improves cardiovascular health but also promotes brain health by increasing blood flow and stimulating the release of chemicals that enhance cognitive function. We encourage you to aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week, along with strength training exercises that target major muscle groups.
  • Prioritise Sleep: Quality sleep is crucial for brain health and cognitive function. Poor sleep habits, such as irregular sleep schedules or sleep deprivation, have been linked to an increased risk of dementia. Getting seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night and establishing a relaxing bedtime routine to promote restful sleep is important.
  • Manage Stress: Chronic stress can have detrimental effects on brain health and may contribute to cognitive decline over time. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, or engaging in hobbies that promote relaxation and enjoyment.
  • Limit Screen Time: Excessive screen time, particularly from electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, and computers, can negatively impact cognitive function and mental well-being. Set boundaries on screen use and incorporate regular breaks to reduce eye strain and minimise exposure to digital stimuli.
  • Engage in Social Activities: Maintaining social connections and participating in social activities can help preserve cognitive function and reduce the risk of dementia. Stay connected with friends, family, and community groups, and seek out opportunities for meaningful social interaction.
  • Challenge Your Brain: Keep your brain active and engaged by regularly participating in activities that stimulate cognitive function, such as reading, puzzles, learning a new skill or language, playing musical instruments, or engaging in strategic games like chess or Sudoku.
  • Manage Chronic Conditions: Chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol can increase the risk of dementia. Work with healthcare professionals to manage these conditions through medication, lifestyle modifications, and regular monitoring.
  • Avoid Harmful Substances: Excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco use have been linked to an increased risk of dementia. Limit alcohol intake to moderate levels and avoid smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke to protect brain health.
  • Seek Regular Medical Check-ups: Stay proactive about your overall health by scheduling regular check-ups with healthcare providers. Monitoring factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and cognitive function can help detect potential issues early and allow for timely intervention.

While these measures can’t guarantee immunity against dementia, adopting a proactive approach to brain health can significantly reduce the risk and promote overall well-being. By making informed lifestyle choices and prioritising self-care, middle-aged adults can empower themselves to maintain cognitive vitality and enjoy a fulfilling quality of life as they age.

References:

  • World Health Organization (WHO). (2019). Risk reduction of cognitive decline and dementia: WHO guidelines.
  • Livingston, G., et al. (2020). Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission.
  • Alzheimer’s Association. (2020). 10 Ways to Love Your Brain.