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Doing This One Thing Can Slash Your Dementia Risk by 40%

Learn how to lower your risk of dementia. 

Dementia is a common condition that affects cognitive functions and is becoming more concerning due to the alarming increase in cases. Francine Waskavitz, M.S.,CCC-SLP, IHNC Memory Health Coach tells us "If you have a brain, you should be worried about dementia. Rates of dementia are skyrocketing. According to estimates from Lancet Public Health, the number of people living with dementia worldwide will nearly triple by the year 2050." She adds, "This rapid increase means you or someone you know is very likely to be affected by this disease. Currently, there is no treatment for dementia. Your best defense against dementia lies within your lifestyle." While there's no surefire way to prevent the condition, there are healthy choices that help reduce the risk greatly. Waskavitz says, "The Lancet Commission estimates that modifiable risk factors can prevent or delay up to 40% of dementia cases. Acting on these lifestyle factors can improve your health and add years to your life, and the sooner you begin the more protected you will be."    Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About Dementia

Unhappy patient speaking with doctor in medical office

Dr. Jacob Hascalovici MD, PhD Clearing Chief Medical Officer says, "People should know that dementia doesn't only affect older people, as patients often presume. It can impact people under 65, too. Typically, it involves changes that are more pervasive and more concerning than simply forgetting a word here and there or occasionally dealing with an episode of brain fog."


Lifestyle Choices that Increase the Chance of Dementia


Dr. Hascalovici explains, "Though it's difficult to predict who exactly might develop dementia, certain lifestyle habits make dementia more likely. These include regularly getting too little sleep (usually less than six hours a night), eating foods that inflame body tissues (meaning high-fat things, red meat, sugary things, and processed foods), feeling lonely or being socially isolated for a long time, sitting around a lot, smoking regularly, or drinking more than recommended."


Other Risk Factors You Might Find Surprising

woman thinking and looking out the window

Dr. Hascalovici tells us, "Unfortunately, some things that are challenging enough to manage on their own can also make it more likely you may develop dementia. Depression, for example, or being isolated from others makes dementia more likely, possibly because you're not getting enough mental and emotional stimulation. Oddly, taking calcium supplements may raise dementia risks. ADHD, having a family history of dementia, or getting a head injury can contribute as well."



Sad depressed woman suffering from insomnia, she is sitting in bed and touching her forehead, sleep disorder and stress concept

Dr. Hascalovici emphasizes, "It's simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy: sleep is vital for so many reasons. Yet Americans often shortchange themselves when it comes to getting at least six to eight hours of sleep a night. Maybe it's due to insomnia, stress, work obligations, to raising a young one or to looking after elders, or to experiencing chronic pain or other health problems – whatever the reason, if you skip a full night of sleep too many times, you risk incurring a host of health problems, and may be running a 30% higher risk of dementia."


Get Fitter and Stay that Way

older couple running outdoors

According to Dr. Hascalovici, "Getting fitter is one of the top things you can do to reduce your chances of getting dementia. Overall fitness happens through a combination of eating well (like following the Mediterranean diet) and exercising or at least being active regularly. When you're fit, you also reduce the odds of diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, heart disease, and many other problems that elevate your risks of dementia. Being fit is important whether you're overweight or "skinny fat" – fitness applies to everyone!"


Stop Smoking

Man breaking up a cigarette

Waskavitz shares, "There is strong evidence that smoking is associated with an increased risk of dementia. Smoking can increase your risk for health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cognitive impairment, all of which are associated with a higher incidence of subsequent dementia. According to the World Health Organization, up to 14% of Alzheimer's disease cases are potentially attributed to smoking. Quitting can reduce your risk of the disease or delay its onset."


Know Your Numbers

Health visitor and a senior man during home visit.

Waskavitz says, "Your cognitive health rests upon your physical health. High blood pressure, diabetes and obesity dramatically increase your risk of dementia. They are also three of the modifiable risk factors for dementia prevention. If you're focused on reducing your risk of dementia, you must know your numbers and aim to optimize them. A healthy diet and lifestyle are critical components to supporting both your physical and cognitive health as you age."



mature woman performing dumbbells workout

Waskavitz reminds us, "Living a sedentary lifestyle contributes to high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity. Exercise is a key preventative component to lower incidence of associated conditions and to keep your brain healthy. Physical exercise can increase blood flow and oxygen to the brain, especially in the hippocampus, or the memory-related region of the brain. Exercise has additional brain benefits by potentially improving your sleep, stress management and risk of depression all of which impact your risk of dementia."


Get Your Hearing Checked

patient having hearing problems checked by doctor, early sign of parkinson's

Waskavitz explains, "Untreated hearing loss increases your risk for dementia. According to the Lancet Commission, hearing loss accounts for up to 8% of dementia cases worldwide. Adults with hearing loss have a faster rate of cognitive decline than adults with normal hearing. Hearing loss requires extra cognitive resources which limits the cognitive reserves available for memory and thinking. This can lead to physical changes in brain volume and function that can accelerate dementia. If you're experiencing hearing loss, schedule an appointment with an audiologist who can assess function and discuss treatment options.


**It's difficult to quantify 1 health action with a specific percentage. According to the Lancet Commissions Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care Report, acting on the 12 modifiable risk factors can prevent or delay 40% of worldwide dementias."


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
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