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Reducing your risk factors to avoid developing dementia

Although dementia cannot be prevented or cured, caring for your brain, heart and overall wellbeing can reduce the onset and impact of dementia.

Last updated: September 11th 2022
Healthy lifestyle choices including physical activity, diet and social engagement may reduce or delay the impact of dementia [Source: iStock]

Healthy lifestyle choices including physical activity, diet and social engagement may reduce or delay the impact of dementia [Source: iStock]

Key points

  • Dementia cannot be cured or prevented, but the risks can be reduced
  • Taking care of your mental health can be beneficial in reducing your risk of dementia
  • Healthy lifestyle choices including physical activity, diet and social engagement may reduce or delay the impact of dementia

Close to half a million Australians are estimated to be living with dementia, a neurological disorder with a wide range of symptoms.

There are many different forms of dementia, including vascular dementia, Alzheimer’s, early onset dementia and Lewy body disease.
Each one may present with different symptoms, including memory loss, changes in mood, confusion, difficulty with speech or writing, and challenges with processing information.

Risk factors for developing dementia

There are several risk factors that can lead to the onset of dementia, with some classified as modifiable or non-modifiable – which means you can avoid certain risk factors.

It is important to highlight that dementia is not a part of the natural ageing process, however, the neurological disease is more common in older people.

One in 30 Australians aged 70 to 74 years old are estimated to have dementia, while that increases to one in three for people aged 90 to 94 years old.

Genetics and family history are non-modifiable risk factors that may play a role in some types of dementia, including familial Alzheimers, Huntington’s disease and frontotemporal dementia.

Meanwhile, several modifiable health factors are believed to impact your risk of developing dementia, including:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Poor diet
  • High cholesterol
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Hearing loss

As each of the above potentially increases the risk of developing dementia, it is best to seek medical advice and lead a healthy lifestyle.

There are also several steps you can take to care for your overall health and wellbeing to reduce your likelihood of developed dementia.

Care for your brain and mental health

Positive cognitive function is seen as one of the most important mitigating factors for dementia. Mental exercises ensure your brain continues to build new brain cells and strengthen those connections as you age.

Some of the best ways to lower your risk of dementia involve challenging mental tasks, such as:

  • Daily crosswords, games or puzzles
  • Learning a new language
  • Taking up a new hobby
  • Staying socially active with friends and family
  • Playing sport/remaining physically active

By keeping your mind active, you can delay cognitive decline.

Depression is also believed to be a risk factor for dementia, although, there is no direct correlation between depression and dementia.

However, looking after your overall mental wellbeing is crucial as you age. If you are concerned about your mental health, seek out professional advice.

You can also read more information on the topic of depression and dementia in our article, ‘The link between dementia and depression’.

Protecting your brain from traumatic injury is another important dementia prevention step.

Concussions and subconcussions from repeated head and brain injuries have been proven to lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which in turn can develop into CTE dementia during the latter stages of the disease. CTE impacts thinking, mood and behaviour.

If you are taking part in activities or sports that include physical contact, make sure to wear appropriate protective headwear.

Look after your heart health

Heart health is important when minimising the chances of developing vascular dementia, one of the most common forms of dementia.

Issues with blood flow to the brain are linked with the onset of vascular dementia. It can be caused by strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure, blood clots or high cholesterol.

Looking after your heart and arteries is, therefore, incredibly important. To reduce the risk of the contributing factors to heart disease, you should:

  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Avoid high cholesterol foods
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Avoid smoking
  • Remain physically active
  • Positive sleeping patterns

Physical activity is particularly beneficial as it promotes increased blood flow to the brain while also stimulating the growth of new brain cells.

Looking after your heart with positive lifestyle choices as you get older can minimise a range of dementia risk factors.

Have you taken up any hobbies to keep your brain and body healthy? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content

The link between dementia and depression
Dementia behaviour and challenges


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