How to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Your Lifestyle Is Key

Even if dementia runs in your family, it isn’t inevitable. Lifestyle changes, like diet, exercise, and creating an environment for good night’s sleep, can go a long way in protecting cognitive function.

Curious about how to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia? 

Since the development of dementia seems to be due to a mix of genetics, aging, and lifestyle, it can feel tricky to nail down what health change to prevent dementia needs to be taken. Fortunately, from foods to prevent dementia to daily habits that protect brain function, there are many ways to take an active role in decreasing the risk for cognitive loss. 

Continue reading to discover ways you can reduce the risk of developing dementia. 

Introduction to Dementia

Dementia is a type of disease in which loss of cognitive functioning occurs. Essentially, the brain begins to decline and does not function as it should. Processes like memory, thinking, or reasoning can be interrupted. 

Although some types of dementia can affect younger people, most types affect populations 50 years and older. With a growing aging population, dementia has become a disease of concern. 

As a note, you may hear the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” used interchangeably, Alzheimer’s disease is technically a type of dementia and is the most common type. In any case, both diseases can get progressively worse and describe deteriorating cognitive function. 

How to Prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia

While there’s no one habit ultimately proven to cure or prevent dementia, a series of lifestyle changes have been associated with decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Many of the lifestyle changes below can also be utilized to reduce the severity of dementia symptoms if you (or a loved one) have been recently diagnosed.  

Importance of Diet

Not only can a healthy diet reduce your risk for dementia, but it may also decrease your risk for conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure, too. Key parts of a healthy diet include trading saturated fat for healthy fats, red meat for lean protein, and nutrient-poor foods for more fruits and vegetables. 

Lean Protein

Studies have shown that one particular aspect of the diet, protein, may have a protective effect on cognition. This makes sense since proteins, including the brain, are the “building blocks” of the body. In the brain, proteins (and their components, amino acids) share the responsibility with other nutrients to maintain brain cells’ function and integrity.  

Healthy Fats 

Fats often get villainized, but healthy fats uniquely affect brain health. While saturated fat intake (the “unhealthy” kind of fat) is associated with increased Alzheimer’s disease and dementia risk, diets replete in healthy unsaturated fats (like omega-3 fatty acids) may be brain-protective. 


Since gut health and brain health are believed to be closely linked, it’s essential to take care of your digestive system, too. One nutrient is crucial to keeping things running smoothly (quite literally)— fiber. Beyond benefiting the gut, research has shown that consuming enough fiber in the diet can lower the risk of dementia. 

Potential Dietary Protocols

The MIND diet can be a great place to start if you’re looking for a formal pattern. As suggested by its name, the MIND diet promotes brain health. It is a Mediterranean DASH intervention (a diet that combines the Mediterranean diet pattern with the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). 

Physical Activity for Brain Health

Another action you can take with untold health benefits is implementing regular exercise. Many people think of movement as a way to benefit the body, but it can also benefit the mind. Physical activity can improve blood flow to the brain, and can be an inexpensive and effective way to delay dementia onset. 

Work Within Your Limit 

Although you may hear the saying “no pain, no gain” repeated among younger gym-goers, this doesn’t ring true for older adults. As an exercising elderly person, it’s essential to work within certain parameters to keep yourself safe. Fortunately, there are many more gentle ways to exercise while maintaining muscle. Working with a doctor or physical therapist can help you find movements and exercises that won’t put you at risk for injuries. 

Ways to Be Less Sedentary 

You’re probably cleared to continue your average activity level if you’re already an active adult. However, if you haven’t been exercising or have been in a period of inactivity (such as after surgery), it’s never too late to start! 

Start simple and small by exercising for short amounts of time. Over time, you’ll be able to condition your body and work up to more extended periods of more intense exercises. Silver Cuisine has many resources on exercise, including chair exercises for mobility-limited seniors.  

Mental Stimulation

Just like your body needs exercises to stay in shape, your brain also needs mental exercises to stay sharp. Mental exercises are often referred to as a form of cognitive fitness. Mental stimulation for cognitive function comes in many forms. 


Puzzles and “brain games” may enhance cognition in aging adults and can include everything from physical puzzles to chess to video games. In essence, these games work to engage the problem-solving sectors of your brain in hopes that utilizing these sections more often might keep the brain in tip-top shape. They may be especially well-suited to those facing mild cognitive impairment (MCI). 


A recent study showed that reading had a protective effect on cognition in later life. Limited literacy is considered a risk factor for dementia.  

Play An Instrument 

Interestingly, playing an instrument may stimulate key parts of the brain. One study found that musicians may be significantly less likely to develop MCI or dementia. Playing music as a hobby is thought to have beneficial effects as well. 

Quality Sleep

Even though parts of the brain stay “awake” while you sleep, overall brain function benefits from a good night’s rest. Unfortunately, sleep problems tend to be expected in older adults. Poor sleep may be a contributing factor to the development of dementia. 

Regular Sleep Schedules 

Sleep quality may be improved by sticking to a regular sleep schedule. In other words, aim to sleep and wake around the same time every day. This can help “train” the body when to be awake and when to be asleep, ultimately resulting in the ability to get a better night’s sleep more regularly. 

Reducing Screen Time Before Bed

Minimizing screen time is an important part of sleep hygiene, which includes the environment or circumstances in which you sleep. Although electronic devices can be helpful, they emit blue light that can “trick” the body’s internal clock into thinking it’s time to be awake. 

Refraining from using these devices for at least 30 minutes to an hour before bed may promote a better night’s sleep, which can do wonders for your brain health. 

Social Engagement

Surprisingly, social interactions can boost brain engagement while reducing the risk of dementia. Researchers theorize that this happens because socializing places specific demands on the brain. During the conversation, you may need to solve problems, think of the right word, or learn a new communication skill. 

Ideas for Social Interaction

Even for introverts, social interaction is essential! It’s helpful to find a balance when seeking out activities. Look for opportunities to stimulate your brain that won’t drain too much energy. 

Some ideas include:

  • Calling a far-away friend once a month 
  • Scheduling regular outings with friends or family (such as a weekly game night or lunch)
  • Volunteering with an organization that means something special to you

Stress Management

You may already understand how stress can affect the body, such as by way of high blood pressure. It may come as a shock, however, that stress (especially chronic stress) can have detrimental effects on brain health, too. 

Unmanaged chronic stress is thought to accelerate the deterioration process and may even be considered a risk factor for developing MCI or Alzheimer’s disease. 

Meditating, Yoga, or Deep Breathing  

Mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and yoga are well-recognized stress relief techniques. Recent research suggests they may also help boost brain health. Adhering to a long-term meditation practice, in particular, has been shown to alter brain structure for the better, thickening the areas associated with intelligence and information processing. 

Leisure or Hobby Activities 

A growing body of evidence also points to leisure activities as a form of stress relief and a way to benefit the brain. Some hobbies, like reading (mentioned above), naturally stimulate the brain. Other hobbies, like gardening, needlework, and fixing up old cars, may require you to learn new skills, which can challenge the brain in a fun way. 

If you don’t currently have a hobby, consider starting one! Photography, sewing, and writing are popular among the senior crowd. 

Health Changes to Prevent Dementia: Final Takeaways

Regularly making healthy choices can help to reduce your risk of dementia. Some health changes may require a lifestyle shift, such as a concerted effort to exercise or eat healthier. 

Others may involve activities you already know and love—like puzzles, reading, games, hobbies, or socializing with friends and family. In short, small and consistent efforts can go a long way in protecting cognition or delaying the onset of dementia. 


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