Recently we’ve shared a handful of new research and articles pertaining to causes of dementia, or possible ways to prevent dementia. Many of these studies all have one thing in common though, and that is a person’s lifestyle. Whether it’s eating healthier, exercising more, or getting a better night’s sleep, research is showing that by changing some of your lifestyle habits, you could lower the risk of developing dementia. A new report from the Lancet Commission on dementia prevention, intervention and care stresses that point by claiming dementia is not an inescapable part of aging, and there are steps you can take to lower your risk.
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Dementia
The recent study revealed that as many as “35% of dementia cases could, at least in theory, be prevented, with 9% linked to midlife hearing loss, 8% to leaving education before secondary school, 5% to smoking in later life and 4% to later life depression.” Other factors that could contribute to potentially avoidable cases of dementia included social isolation, later life diabetes, midlife high blood pressure, midlife obesity and lack of exercise in later life. To put this in perspective, if a solution to the leading genetic risk factor for dementia were found, it would only prevent 7% of cases. Researchers in this study suggest lifestyle changes such as following a Mediterranean diet, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping an eye on your blood pressure, and participating in regular exercise and social activities could help slow the progression of developing dementia.
What Does This Research Mean?
For some of these lifestyle factors, it is hard to prove causation, which is proven to be a recurring issue in research. It’s hard to tell if depression causes dementia or if changes in the brain due to dementia cause depression. Some of these lifestyle factors are hard to adjust such as poor education or social isolation. But there are factors like high blood pressure and smoking that can be addressed.
Previous research has been done to support this recent study and include additional lifestyle changes such as wearing seat belts or helmets to prevent head injury, challenging yourself and your brain to improve cognitive function by doing puzzles or mind games and get quality sleep. The important takeaway is that treating these factors early on and making simple lifestyle changes could help slow the progression of the disease, which is cause for celebration. It means that we need to be aware of the risks and make positive lifestyle changes in order to prevent them.