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How to Reverse Dementia Risk, According to Experts

Medical experts reveal 9 ways to help prevent dementia.
FACT CHECKED BY Alek Korab

According to the World Health Organization, more than 55 million people worldwide live with dementia—a disorder that affects memory and cognitive abilities. While there is no cure for dementia, there are ways we can help prevent it. Dr. David Perlmutter, MD a Board-Certified Neurologist and five-time New York Times bestselling author with an upcoming new book titled Drop Acid, says, "There's little doubt that dietary choices are profoundly influential in terms of dementia risk. But equally important is physical activity. Research over the past decade has validated the fundamental importance of physical exercise as it relates to the health of the brain. Higher levels of regular exercise are associated with better memory function, less brain shrinkage, and as much as a 40% reduction in dementia risk. As there is no meaningful medical treatment for dementia, it makes sense to pursue the various lifestyle choices for which there is supportive science  showing benefits for the brain." Eat This, Not That! Health talked to medical experts who explained ways to reverse and stop habits that lead to dementia. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Stop Listening to Loud Music

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Dr. Hope Lanter, audiologist at hear.com says, "A study from earlier this year found that older adults who start losing both vision and hearing are twice as likely to develop dementia as people with only one or neither impairment. Hearing loss can be an early sign of many conditions including dementia. So proper hearing care is a vital component to a healthy life and there are ways to help lessen the risk of losing your hearing. Limiting or avoiding noise exposure is the most important action you can take as well as using hearing protection when noise exposure cannot be avoided. Noise exposure includes wearing headphones and everyday tasks such as mowing your lawn – common actions that many people do not correlate with contributing to hearing loss. Earwax impaction can also contribute to hearing loss and can be prevented by regular checks by your family physician. Early and routine hearing testing is critical to monitor any changes and to be proactive in regard to being in control of your hearing."

2

Keep Your Mind Sharp

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According to Dr. Fawad Yousuf, neurologist at Baptist Health's Marcus Neuroscience Institute, "To forestall memory loss or the mental deterioration that comes with dementia or Alzheimer's, I recommend engaging in "brain aerobic activities." The most important thing patients can do is to read, which not only helps with learning about new information but the mind is compelled to think outside of everyday tasks. Crossword puzzles, card games, music, arts and crafts are also great, because they stimulate the brain and give it a nice workout. Learning to play an instrument not only helps patients stay on task, it can help them learn new tasks and improve memory and attention. All of these activities are beneficial because they force patients to think outside of everyday tasks, help them multi-task and they can also build new neural pathways and connections in the brain."

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3

Feed Your Mind-Body Connection

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Dr. Yousuf says, "Activities like yoga and meditation are calming for the patient and create opportunities to engage with others, which can be especially beneficial for dementia and Alzheimer's patients. Social connections and interactive activities are especially important. Having a friend or someone to talk to also stimulates positive emotions and helps with memory, focus, attention, speech and language."

4

Get Your Daily Exercise

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"A study from Columbia University determined that individuals who exercised on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day grew new cells in the dentate gyrus, a part of the brain's hippocampus in the temporal lobe that is related to memory function," Dr. Yousuf says. "Because exercise increases blood flow to the brain, it helps fuel the growth of these new brain cells, which are vital to improving or maintaining memory function. It's also been shown that regular exercise can decrease stress and enhance one's mood, even if it's just going for a walk every day."

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5

Eat Your Fruits and Veggies

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According to the CDC, "approximately 75 percent of all Americans are not consuming adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables. So I would encourage decreasing the amount of red meat in your diet and increasing your intake of seeds, vegetables and fruits," Dr. Yousuf explains. 

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6

Try the Anti-inflammatory Diet

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"Our diet has a greater impact on brain health than we often realize, " says Lisa Richards, a nutritionist and author of the Candida Diet "An anti-inflammatory diet that focuses on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats is one way to aid in brain health.  By reducing inflammation in the body and increasing the amount of plant compounds consumed you can prevent and reduce oxidative damage caused by free radicals. This is due primarily to the antioxidant impact these plant compounds have at the cellular level.  Healthy fats like those from lean protein and plant sources can help to reduce inflammation while simultaneously fueling the brain with the type of fat that benefits it the most. Both of these dietary descriptions can be achieved through a plant based diet."

7

Western Diet

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Dr. Uma Naidoo a Harvard trained nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef and nutrition specialist who wrote the recent national bestselling book, This is Your Brain on Food.  says "Consuming a 'Western diet' — that is, a diet high in processed, sugary carbohydrates and trans fats — is linked to detrimental effects upon our memory, cognition, and even our emotions. It is understood that such a diet promotes inflammation, alters the gut microbiota, and contributes to chronic stress (physical and mental) that may lead to these negative effects. Added and refined sugars have been shown to feed unhealthy gut bacteria and increase inflammation in both the gut and brain, one of the drivers of cognitive decline and dementia."

8

Eliminate Gluten From Your Diet

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Dr. Naidoo explains, "For people with celiac disease, or a gluten intolerance like non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten may be linked to neurological problems, including cognitive impairment, which may only get worse over time."

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9

How to Help Prevent Neurocognitive Decline

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Dr. Naidoo recommends the following:

"Spice up your diet

It only takes a pinch! Adding spices like turmeric, black pepper, cinnamon, saffron, rosemary and ginger add color and flavor to our food, while each possesses brain-healthy and even mood-boosting properties. A tip: using a pinch of black pepper with turmeric significantly increases its availability in the body and brain.

Add in the good fats

Olive Oil: Extra-virgin olive oil is incredibly brain-healthy, and its consumption is linked to lower incidences of Alzheimer's disease, by way of encouraging autophagy – our own process of cellular 'clean up!' Adding extra virgin olive oil to homemade salad dressings or drizzling over a green salad packed with a rainbow color of veggies is a great way to reap these benefits!

Omega-3's

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of omega-3 fatty acids show great promise in improving thinking and memory. Fatty fish such as wild-caught sock-eye salmon and anchovies, as well as various nuts and seeds, provide these essential nutrients.

Leafy greens

The greener, the better. Leafy greens are an incredible source of the folate. Where a folate deficiency may underlie some neurological conditions, improving folate status has beneficial effects on our brain health and cognitive age. Leafy greens, such as spinach, Swiss chard, and dandelion greens are an excellent source!

Berry, berry good

Berries: By way of their powerful antioxidants and phyto-nutrients, bright-colored berries and colorful veggies can boost memory and promote healthy brain aging. The high amount of fiber in these vitamin- and mineral-packed foods also shows our gut some love, supporting a healthy microbiome, reduced inflammation and good moods. I love having fresh blueberries or raspberries in the morning to start my day with lots of brain-boosting antioxidants!" And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss 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