Today, we will wrap up our series on dementia with a discussion of the factors that may increase your risk of developing dementia and things that you can do to try to lower your risk of developing dementia over your lifetime.
Here are some of the factors that may increase your risk of developing dementia:
- Age – The risk of dementia increases as you get older, especially after age 65. But dementia can occur in younger people.
- Family history – Although having a family history of dementia does increase your risk, many people with dementia do not have a family history of it and people with a family history of dementia may never develop dementia.
- Down syndrome – Many people with Down syndrome develop early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
- Diet – People who eat an unhealthy diet have a higher risk of dementia.
- Exercise – Lack of exercise increases the risk of dementia.
- Excessive alcohol use – Increases risk, particularly for early-onset dementia.
- Cardiovascular risk factors – Including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Diabetes – Especially if it’s poorly controlled.
- Head trauma – Especially severe or multiple head injuries, including multiple concussions.
- Sleep disturbances – Such as sleep apnea or chronic lack of sleep.
What can you do to help prevent dementia?
- Keep your mind active – Mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, solving puzzles, playing word games, and memory training might delay the onset of dementia and decrease its effects.
- Be physically active – Aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise each week.
- Be socially active – Regular social interaction, particularly in-person, may delay the onset of dementia and reduce its symptoms.
- Quit smoking
- Treat chronic medical problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Maintain a healthy diet – A diet such as the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids, promotes overall health and may lower your risk of developing dementia. This type of diet also improves cardiovascular health, which may help lower dementia risk.
- Get 7-8 hours of good-quality sleep nightly – Practice good sleep hygiene, and talk to your doctor if you snore loudly or have periods where you stop breathing or gasp during sleep.
- Treat hearing problems – People with hearing loss have a greater chance of developing cognitive decline. Early treatment of hearing loss, such as use of hearing aids, might help decrease the risk.
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Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor