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9 Everyday Habits That Might Lead to Dementia, Say Experts

People can “reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting key lifestyle habits.”
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

"Growing evidence indicates that people can reduce their risk of cognitive decline by adopting key lifestyle habits," says the Alzheimer's Association. "When possible, combine these habits to achieve maximum benefit for the brain and body. Start now. It's never too late or too early to incorporate healthy habits." Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You Have "Long" COVID and May Not Even Know It.


You're Not Fueling Up Right

woman on the sofa eating a healthy salad

"Eat a healthy and balanced diet that is lower in fat and higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline," says the Alzheimer's Association. "Although research on diet and cognitive function is limited, certain diets, including Mediterranean and Mediterranean-DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), may contribute to risk reduction."


You're Not Taking Care of Your Mental Health

Doctor and senior woman wearing facemasks

"Some studies link a history of depression with increased risk of cognitive decline, so seek medical treatment if you have symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health concerns," says the Alzheimer's Association. "Also, try to manage stress."


You're Not Staying Socially Engaged

Female supervisor wearing face mask using digital tablet in warehouse talking to male courier holding shipping parcels boxes delivering packages.

This one is hard to do during the pandemic, but it's important. "Staying socially engaged may support brain health. Pursue social activities that are meaningful to you. Find ways to be part of your local community — if you love animals, consider volunteering at a local shelter. If you enjoy singing, join a local choir or help at an after-school program. Or, just share activities with friends and family," advises the Alzheimer's Association.


You're Not Staying Educated

older woman looking at laptop

"Formal education in any stage of life will help reduce your risk of cognitive decline and dementia," says the Alzheimer's Association. "For example, take a class at a local college, community center or online."


You're Not Taking Care of Your Heart or Lungs

Elderly woman feeling unwell,she's headache and painful around chest area.

"Evidence shows that risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke — obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes — negatively impact your cognitive health," says the Alzheimer's Association. "Take care of your heart, and your brain just might follow." Don't smoke either.

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You're Courting a Brain Injury

Doctor attentively examines the MRI scan of the patient.

"Brain injury can raise your risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt, use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike, and take steps to prevent falls," says the Alzheimer's Association.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Prevent Dementia, Says Dr. Sanjay Gupta


You're Not Sleeping Enough

senior woman having sleep disorder, sitting in bed look sad

"Not getting enough sleep due to conditions like insomnia or sleep apnea may result in problems with memory and thinking," says the Alzheimer's Association. 

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You're Not Exercising

Obese woman laying on sofa with smartphone eating chips

"Engage in regular cardiovascular exercise that elevates your heart rate and increases blood flow to the brain and body," says the Alzheimer's Association. "Several studies have found an association between physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive decline."

RELATED: 5 Health Habits Worse Than Soda


Play Brain Games

hand paints canvas

"Challenge and activate your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Complete a jigsaw puzzle. Do something artistic. Play games, such as bridge, that make you think strategically," says the Alzheimer's Association. "Challenging your mind may have short and long-term benefits for your brain." And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Alek Korab
Alek Korab is a Co-Founder and Managing Editor of the ETNT Health channel on Eat This, Not That! Read more about Alek