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This Common Habit May Lead to Dementia, Say Physicians

Five unhealthy habits that increase your risk of getting dementia.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Around 55 million people worldwide have dementia–a syndrome defined by the National Institute of Aging as, "the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities. Some people with dementia cannot control their emotions, and their personalities may change." While much more needs to be learned about dementia, the medical community does know that certain unhealthy lifestyle choices can increase your risk of getting it. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who explained what the common habits are and why they boost your chances of getting dementia. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Unhealthy Diet

woman looking at unhealthy breakfast in pastry case

Dr. Paul Poulakos, MD, board-certified Psychiatrist says a, "High sodium diet – Hypertension (or high blood pressure) is a risk factor for dementia. Therefore activities/behaviors that are associated with high blood pressure increase one's risk of developing dementia. One of the most common causes of high blood pressure is consumption of foods high in sodium. Therefore it is foods that are high in sodium that can increase risk of dementia  like pizza, soups, canned foods, cold cuts and cured meats, sandwiches, sauces (i.e. soy sauce, teriyaki)."

President/CEO, Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America adds, "Adopt a low-fat diet high on fruits and veggies, like strawberries, blueberries and broccoli. Take daily vitamins. Limit intake of red meats, fried and processed foods, salt and sugar.  In general, foods that are "heart healthy" are also "brain healthy."



Man Smoking On Bright Sunny Day Outdoor

Dr. Poulakos explains, "Smoking increases risks of dementia through a few different mechanisms. Smoking damages blood vessels which we know is associated with increased risk of dementia. The toxins from cigarette smoking also cause oxidative stress and inflammation which are linked to Alzheimer disease, the leading type of dementia."

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Alcohol Consumption

man drinking alone

According to Dr. Poulakos, "Excessive alcohol consumption including binge drinking can increase one's risk of dementia. Consuming excessive alcohol increases one's risk of cardiovascular disease (including HTN). We know that our cardiovascular health is very important because when compromised one has an increased risk of several medical complications including stroke which are associated with an increased risk of dementia." 

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Sedentary Lifestyle

lazy couple

"Lack of exercise and physical activity is associated with an increased risk of dementia," says Dr. Poulakos. "Physical exercise improves the health of blood vessels. Our blood vessels are essential to delivering blood throughout the body. Weak or damaged blood vessels are more susceptible to blood clots (strokes) which is a risk factor for dementia."

Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. explains, "Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain and can also help improve mood and overall well being.  Brisk walking benefits brain health, while aerobics can boost your heart rate, and weight training builds strength and flexibility."

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Social Isolation

Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

Dr. Poulakos states, "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "social isolation was associated with approximately a 50% increased risk of dementia. The mechanism by which social isolation and loneliness contributes to dementia risk is not completely understood but it is likely multifaceted. For example, it is known that people who experience loneliness and isolation are more likely to smoke and less likely to exercise; both of these behaviors have been associated with increased dementia risk. Also, loneliness has been associated with an inflammatory response to stress which is also implicated in dementia risk." And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather