10 Lifestyle Habits to Adopt to Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

Plus, learn how these lifestyle changes can boost brain health.

By: Lauren Panoff MPH, RD

Most of us know someone who has been impacted by Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. In recent years, Alzheimer’s has been the fifth leading cause of death of adults in the United States. 

Dementia is a devastating disease that results in the progressive damage or degeneration of brain cells. Over time, they can affect memory, thinking, and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily functioning. 

Nobody wants to be diagnosed with dementia or learn that they have a genetic predisposition for it. While we can’t always prevent neurodegenerative diseases, there are plenty of lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of dementia.

RELATED: The 5 Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies in Those With Alzheimer’s Disease 

10 Habits to Reduce The Risk of Alzheimer’s & Dementia 

It’s never too late to start taking better care of your brain health. The bonus is that the lifestyle habits that help protect your brain from dementias also support your long-term health on a broader scale. Here are 10 lifestyle habits to reduce the risk of dementia that you can start practicing today. 

#1 Get Regular Physical Exercise

Experts recommend engaging in at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week for general health and disease prevention. Find activities you enjoy and mix them up! For example, walking, swimming, high-intensity interval training, weight lifting, yoga, or cycling can improve cardiovascular health and reduce dementia risk.

#2 Follow a Nutrient-Dense Diet

Look at your current diet pattern and identify areas for improvement (we all have them). If you need a guideline to follow consider the MIND Diet, a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets that emphasizes brain-boosting foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats and is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s.

#3 Mental Stimulation

Your brain needs to be challenged to strengthen and form new neural pathways. Keep your brain active through activities like reading, puzzles, learning new skills, or playing musical instruments. Lifelong learning and mental challenges can help maintain imagination and cognitive function as you get older as this stimulation boosts the delivery of oxygen, blood, and nutrients to your brain. 

#4 Prioritize Social Connections and Community

Maintain strong social connections and participate in social activities. Social interaction helps reduce stress and improve brain health. If you don’t have social groups already, consider local communities you’re interested in trying, such as a nature club, a small group at a church, or even a group fitness class. Social isolation is associated with a higher dementia risk in the elderly. 

#5 Get Quality Restorative Sleep

Adults should aim for 7-8 hours of quality sleep per night. Good sleep hygiene, such as a regular sleep schedule and a comfortable sleeping environment, is crucial for brain health. Avoid things like vigorous exercise, a heavy meal, caffeine, alcohol, and technology right before bed as these can make it harder to fall asleep. 

#6 Manage Your Stress

Some stress is normal, but chronic unmanaged stress can have lasting negative consequences, including worsened cognitive function and dementia symptoms. Practice stress-reducing techniques for your mental health such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, nature walks, or deep-breathing exercises. 

#7 Don’t Smoke

Smoking is linked to vascular damage, inflammation, and an increased risk of dementia. Quitting smoking can improve overall health and reduce the risk of cognitive decline. If you need help with smoking cessation you can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for resources.

#8 Be Mindful About Alcohol Consumption

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. This is defined as up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of dementia, among other health problems. And if you don’t drink, there’s no reason to start now. 

#9 Manage Existing Health Conditions

Keep chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and high cholesterol under control. Proper management of these conditions can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and help support your overall quality of life.

#10 Protect Your Head

Yes, even physical protection of your head is important for dementia risk. Wear helmets when cycling or engaging in contact sports, and take precautions to prevent falls. Head injuries can increase the risk of developing dementia down the road.

The Path to a Healthier Brain: Your Next Steps

Protecting your brain health matters more every day. Consider which of the tips above you can adopt to help reduce your risk of dementia and other chronic diseases. Whether it’s improving your nutrition, moving your body more, managing stress better, or cultivating meaningful relationships, these habits to reduce the risk of dementia can make a big difference.