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How can dementia be prevented?

You control the major factors for memory loss, Alzheimer's and cognitive dysfunction. Changing just a few daily habits cuts your threat from these brain thieves in half. Old age and dementia do not have to go hand in hand. Take as many of these steps as you need and enjoy keeping all your marbles.

  • Quit smoking.
  • Get active.
  • Get smarter. Brain work makes you sharper forever and improves your job odds in tough times.
  • Brighten up. Fight bouts of depression.
  • Control hypertension, obesity and diabetes.
Dr. Sarah N. Mourra, MD
Neurologist
There are not any medications that have been proven to prevent dementia. There was a study showing that the antidepressant Celexa was helpful in preventing decline, but in terms of preventing onset, unfortunately, there is nothing at this point that can do that.
 
It’s important to consider that there are different types of dementia. There’s dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Vascular dementia is caused by vascular changes in the brain. Similar to the way that plaques in the vessels of the heart can cause heart disease, plaques in the vessels of the brain can cause inflammation leading to vascular dementia. There is also dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease.
 
Doctors know that physical activity, a good diet and possibly mental stimulation can be helpful in preventing cognitive decline from converting to dementia. It is also important, for example, for somebody who has vascular risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes to keep those conditions under control with medications and lifestyle. This can actually improve the course of dementia, especially vascular dementia.

To prevent dementia, exercise your body and your brain. Physical activity plays a role in reducing the risk of diseases that cause Alzheimer's. It also builds up that brain reserve. One study found just six months of regular physical activity increased brain volume in 59 healthy but couch-potato individuals ages 60 to 79. Other research finds people who exercised twice a week over an average of 21 years slashed their risk of Alzheimer's in half.

Then there's intellectual exercise. Regular intellectual stimulation is recommended. It doesn't matter what kind, just that you break out of your comfort zone. Even writing letters twice a week instead of sending e-mail can have brain-strengthening benefits. That's because such novel activities stimulate more regions of the brain, increasing blood flow and helping to not only build brain connections, but improve the health of existing tissue.

Anthony Cirillo
Geriatric Medicine Specialist
Walking a bit every day may help prevent dementia. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh discovered a link between walking more and better mental function in old age. The research group began following the physical and cognitive activities of 300 older adults, with an average age of 78.

After charting the group's walking habits for nine years, each participant was given a brain scan. All were declared to be in good cognitive health. Four years later, roughly one-third of the group members had developed dementia, according to the study. Researchers discovered a correlation between the distance a person walks and the preservation of the gray matter of the brain.

Those who walked roughly six to nine miles per week had better gray matter preservation. The study does not prove that walking causes the preservation of cognitive function, only that those who walk appear to have better preserved mental acuity.
Dr. Gary Small, MD
Psychiatrist (Therapist)

Whether your grandma has dementia—or no one in your family does—the best thing you can do to prevent dementia is to live a healthy lifestyle. Stay mentally and physically active, try to manage stress as best you can and eat a healthy diet.

Also, stay socially connected. Doctors say being isolated can make mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia worse. When patients with dementia are with family and friends, they perk up and they do better. So, try not to isolate, and stay socially connected.

Sharecare Ad Target User
Administration Specialist
There are several steps you can take to help prevent dementia or at least delay its development. Most importantly, you have to actively use your brain. Simply doing crossword puzzles or reading regularly can help delay symptoms of dementia. So can working out and eating healthy. Controlling conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can actually help prevent dementia.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.