While it may seem strange, the tens of choices you make over the course of any average day could determine whether you will develop dementia years later and how quickly the disease will progress.
A major report released by the Lancet International Commission on Dementia Prevention and Care in 2017 concluded that up to 35 percent of dementia cases can be delayed or even avoided altogether.
While you may not change the genes you inherited, there are a number of probable risk factors that you may be able to control through your habits.
Maintain A Healthy Weight
A 2017 study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia analyzed medical records of more than one million adults and determined that those with a larger body mass index in middle age were more likely to develop dementia decades later.
Maintaining a healthy weight—especially starting in midlife—will help protect the brain.
Smoking is very unhealthy, but did you know that it also raises your risk of dementia? Several studies over the past three decades have linked cigarette use and mental decline. When you quit smoking, your risk of dementia from all causes drops to the same level of people who never smoked.
Never Stop Learning
Researchers say that when they look at brains during autopsies, they often see signs of damage even when the patient did not suffer from dementia.
Researchers concluded that such people have “cognitive reserve”—meaning their brains have enough extra capacity to stay sharp despite physical damage.
People with higher socioeconomic status during early childhood are less likely to develop dementia, and people who go to school at least through the secondary level are also better off. This shows that brain health and overall health is a lifelong commitment.
Treat Hearing Loss
While there is no proof l that hearing loss causes cognitive decline, studies have shown that people who suffer from it will have higher rates of dementia eventually.
Treating your hearing loss with hearing aids is essential as that may help reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s.
Don’t Skimp On Sleep
According to a 2018 report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Sleeping less than five hours a night—or more than ten—seems to raise your risk of dementia and an early death.
If you snore a lot or don’t feel rested after a full night’s sleep, you should get tested for sleep apnea, an airway condition in which you stop breathing briefly throughout the night. Treatment can make a big difference in the quality of your sleep.
On the other hand, if you suffer from insomnia that lasts longer than a few days or weeks at a time, a sleep specialist might be able to help you figure out how to overcome it. If you just don’t get to bed early enough for a full night’s sleep, rethink your priorities for the sake of your brain health.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure
Everyone knows that cardiovascular health is really important for brain health, but preliminary results of a study announced in the summer of 2018 give extra weight to the importance of managing hypertension.
The study found that subjects whose blood pressure was kept below the systolic (top) number of 120 mmHG—were 15 percent less likely to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, which is defined as difficulty with problems solving and memory.