Like the rest of your body, your lifestyle influences the health of your brain. Maintaining a brain-healthy lifestyle may lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Eight Lifestyle Risk Factors for Developing Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified eight lifestyle factors and behaviors that can increase a person’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s or other related dementias. Lifestyle factors can often be identified and either changed or managed, which may help reduce the risk of or delay the onset of cognitive decline.
Lifestyle and behavior risk factors include:
- Lack of physical exercise
- Cigarette smoking
- Excessive alcohol use
- Hearing loss
Ways to Reduce Your Risk for Alzheimer’s or Dementia
Making lifestyle changes can improve your overall physical health, boost brain health, and help decrease the risk of developing dementia or slow its progression.
1. Stay Physically Active
Routine physical activity may benefit brain cells by increasing blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Try incorporating 30 minutes of aerobic exercise into your schedule three to four times a week.
Staying physically active can also improve your cognitive abilities, help you sleep better, and reduce your risk of depression. It’s important to consult your physician for recommendations on an exercise routine that works best for you.
2. Manage Chronic Conditions
Individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure, and hearing loss are at a greater risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s important to manage these conditions with the help of your physician. Take steps to reduce your symptoms through medication, a specialized diet, or a combination.
3. Engage in Lifelong Learning
Mental exercise keeps your brain active. The brain loves learning new things, so switching out your brain exercise helps. For example, if you like to do crossword puzzles, change to a different type of puzzle such as Sudoku, learn a new language, or play a new instrument.
4. Remain Connected to and Socialize with Others
Social activity, whether dining out at restaurants, attending sporting events, playing bingo, doing volunteer work or other activities, contributes to keeping your brain healthy.
Research has shown that seniors who experience social isolation are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, mild cognitive impairment, and a more rapid decline of overall cognitive function.
5. Reduce Stress and Protect Your Mental Health
Chronic stress has been recognized as a risk factor of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. While chronic severe stress hasn’t been directly tied to cognitive decline, it has been linked to a lower immune response in the brain, which may lead to accelerating symptoms of dementia.
So when you feel stressed, follow one or more of these simple techniques to manage or minimize harmful effects.
- Try deep abdominal breathing to slow your breathing rate and enhance your oxygen level.
- Take some time for yourself every day and do something you enjoy (reading, taking a walk, or enjoying a soothing bath).
- Find your inner peace through prayer or meditation. A strong mind-body connection has been linked with better brain health.
- Train yourself to practice gratitude by writing down what you are thankful for daily.
6. Eat Healthy Foods
The brain needs healthy, nutritious food to operate at its best. A diet high in antioxidants, low in trans and saturated fats, and rich in omega-3 fats will help reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of brain fuel.
- Leafy green vegetables
- Whole grains
7. Drink in Moderation and Quit Smoking
Since both excessive drinking and smoking are risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s important to seek support in changing these behaviors. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk of other conditions like heart disease, cancer, and lung disease.
Excessive alcohol consumption can damage your brain and may increase your risk of developing dementia.
Find More Alzheimer’s & Memory Care Resources in Our Blog
For additional resources on Alzheimer’s and memory care, view our blog. You’ll find guidance on how to cope with an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, how to help loved ones in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and more.