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Simple Tricks to Avoid "Deadly" Dementia Say Doctors

Five ways to help prevent dementia, according to experts.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Dementia is a brain disorder that affects memory, social skills and thinking abilities. According to the World Health Organization, "Currently more than 55 million people live with dementia worldwide, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year." Symptoms can become so severe that daily life is affected and some patients will need caretakers. In addition, dementia can be deadly. The National Library of Medicine states, "In 2017, a total of 261,914 deaths attributable to dementia as an underlying cause of death were reported in the United States. Forty-six percent of these deaths were due to Alzheimer disease." While there are several factors that increase the chance of getting dementia like age, severe head injury, Parkinson's disease and more, there are ways to help lower the risk. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies who reveals lifestyle changes that help prevent dementia. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


How Does Dementia Lead To Death?

Senior Hispanic Man Suffering With Dementia Trying To Dress

According to Dr. Mitchell, "Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability due to disease or injury. Dementia affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior. For example, people with dementia may have trouble remembering things that happened recently or the names of people they know. They may also have difficulty with executive functioning, which includes abilities such as planning and solving problems. The symptoms of dementia can lead to a decline in physical skills and mobility.

Ultimately, dementia can lead to death. One study found that people with dementia are more likely to die from falls, pneumonia, and infections than people without dementia. In addition, people with dementia are more likely to experience a decline in appetite and weight, contributing to malnutrition and further health problems. Ultimately, the symptoms of dementia can lead to a downward spiral of physical and mental decline that can eventually result in death. While there is no cure for dementia, there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. With proper care and support, people with dementia can live meaningful lives for many years despite the challenges of the disease.

As we age, it's normal for our brains to slow down a bit. We may have trouble recalling names or recent events, which may take us longer to learn new information. However, these changes can signify a more severe condition for some people, such as dementia. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability that interferes with daily life. It affects memory, thinking, and judgment and can be confusing and distressing for both those with dementia and their loved ones. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for preventing dementia, some lifestyle changes may help lower your risk."


Get Regular Exercise

mature couple jogging outdoors

Dr. Mitchell explains, "Dementia is a degenerative brain disease that can lead to memory loss, changes in mood and personality, and difficulty with basic activities of daily living. While there is no known cure for dementia, research has shown that physical activity can help to delay its onset and slow its progression. One reason for this may be that exercise helps to improve blood flow to the brain, providing essential nutrients and oxygen. Physical activity helps to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including in the brain. This is important because inflammation is thought to play a role in the development of dementia. Finally, exercise has cognitive benefits, improving executive function, attention, and working memory. Physical activity can be an essential part of dementia prevention for all these reasons."


Eat A Healthy Diet

Senior woman making choice between healthy and junk food

"A healthy diet is essential for many reasons," Dr. Mitchell emphasizes. "First, it can help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Eating a variety of healthy foods can also help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. But did you know that a healthy diet can also help prevent dementia? Studies have shown that people who eat a healthy diet are less likely to develop dementia than those who don't. One theory is that a healthy diet helps to protect the brain from damage. Another idea is that a healthy diet helps keep the blood vessels in the brain open and functioning correctly. Whatever the mechanism, it's clear that eating a healthy diet is good for your brain and body.

So, what exactly is a healthy diet? While there are many different opinions on this subject, there are some general guidelines that most experts agree on. A healthy diet should include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. It should also include lean protein sources such as fish, chicken, and beans. And it should be low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt, and added sugar. By following these guidelines, you can help to keep your mind sharp and your memory. A diet rich in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains provides the nutrients your brain needs to function at its best."


Challenge Your Mind

Group seniors with dementia builds a tower in the nursing home from colorful building blocks

Dr. Mitchell reminds us: "As we age, it's normal for our mental sharpness to decline. We may have more trouble remembering names or where we put our keys. However, research has shown ways to help keep our minds sharp as we age. One of the best things we can do is challenge our minds regularly. This could mean taking up a new hobby, learning a new language, or working on puzzles or brain teasers. By regularly stimulating our brains, we help to keep them active and healthy. This, in turn, can help to prevent dementia and other cognitive declines. In addition, challenging our minds can also help improve our moods and increase our sense of well-being. So whether you're looking to boost your brain power or want to stay sharp as you age, challenging your mind is a great place to start. Take on new tasks and learning experiences to keep your brain active."


Socialize Regularly


Dr. Mitchell says, "Dementia is an ever-growing concern for people as they age. While there is no surefire way to prevent the disease, studies have shown that socializing regularly may help to lower your risk. One theory is that social interaction helps keep your mind active and engaged, which can delay the onset of dementia. Additionally, socializing provides mental and emotional stimulation opportunities, both of which are important for brain health. Finally, being part of a supportive social network can help reduce stress levels, and chronic stress has been linked to an increased risk of dementia. While there is no guarantee socializing will prevent dementia, it is an excellent way to promote brain health and overall well-being. Connecting with others helps to reduce stress and promote brain health."


Get Enough Sleep–At Least 7 To 9 Hours

older couple sleeping peacefully

"While there is no cure for dementia, steps can be taken to prevent or slow its progression," Dr. Mitchell states. "One of the most important is to get enough sleep. Sleep helps to consolidate memories and keeps the brain healthy. It also helps reduce stress and inflammation, both of which have been linked to dementia. In addition, sleep deprivation has been shown to impair cognitive function and increase the risk of developing dementia. It is essential to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night for these reasons. If you are having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor about ways to improve your sleep habits. Getting enough sleep is one of the best things to protect your memory and keep your mind sharp as you age."

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