The Senior Life is supported by readers like you. We may receive a commission If you click on an affiliate link.

10 Ways to Lower Your Dementia Risk Now

Are mind ‘slips and trips’ becoming more common? Or, maybe your brain is still razor-sharp and you’d like to know how to keep it that way?

Many people think that if you’re in your 50’s and 60’s and experience some memory loss, then that’s just a part of life.

But according to AmenClinics.com, it’s not. It’s your brain calling out for help. It’s a sign your brain may be struggling. It may be a warning sign of dementia.

Dementia is a blanket term used to describe a group of cognitive disorders typically characterized by memory problems, language struggles, or difficulty recognizing objects. It can interfere with quality of life and it can be scary.

While some causes of dementia are genetic, certain lifestyle practices actually can help lower your risk. By adopting these practices, you‘ll be in a better position to remember the good times, all the years of your life. Here are the top ten ways to ward off dementia naturally:

Prioritize Your Sleep

How many hours of sleep do you get every night? How many times a night do you wake up? Are you a belly sleeper or a back sleeper? Problems with getting enough shut-eye frequently cause or contribute to cognitive impairment. One way to lower your risk of dementia is to prioritize your sleep.

Sleep is the only time your brain has for rest and repair. Your brain uses this time to clear away waste and chemicals from the brain. Without that drainage, your brain could experience harmful buildup, putting you at risk for neurological problems.

Sleep quality and quantity make a difference. But did you know that sleep position also plays a role in lowering your dementia risk? Researchers have found that sleeping on your side, in the lateral position, may help to remove waste products from the brain more effectively.

Adopt a Mediterranean or MIND Diet

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a heart-healthy diet may help protect the brain. A heart-healthy diet includes minimizing your intake of sugar and saturated fats and including plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains on your plate.

One diet that has been studied and may be beneficial is the Mediterranean diet. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish and shellfish, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and other healthy fats. When following this diet, you’ll want to avoid or minimize processed foods, fried and fast foods, red meat, poultry, and whole-fat dairy.

Another diet to check out is the MIND diet, a version of the Mediterranean diet that emphasizes the consumption of ten “brain-healthy” foods: green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Like the Mediterranean diet, you will want to avoid or minimize the consumption of red meat, butter and stick margarine, dairy, pastries, sweets, and fried foods.

Eating foods included in the Mediterranean or MIND diet is linked to a lower risk for memory difficulties in older adults, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers found that older adults who ate Mediterranean and MIND-style diets scored significantly better on the cognitive function tests than those who ate less healthy diets.

SOURCE: Claire T. McEvoy, Heidi Guyer, Kenneth M. Langa, Kristine Yaffe. Neuroprotective Diets Are Associated with Better Cognitive Function: The Health and Retirement Study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 2017

Exercise Regularly

Does a fitter body lead to a fitter brain? How does exercise affect your mind? According to Harvard Health Publishing​, exercise changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills. Regular aerobic exercise, the type that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to help the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Other benefits of exercise come from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.

Drink Filtered Water

Do you have copper water pipes? Have you ever had your water tested for toxins and contaminants? A study published on the National Institutes of Health website found that drinking water containing low levels of copper can cause a buildup of the pro-Alzheimer’s protein amyloid beta in the brain. To ensure the safety of the water you drink, install a water filter that is certified for copper reduction.

Find and Connect With Your Purpose

Do you have a sense of direction? Living a life full of purpose, feeling generally happy on a daily basis, and having hope for the future can support a healthy brain. If you haven’t found your passion yet, it’s not too late. Spend your time on hobbies that lift you up. Surround yourself with people who do the same.

See Your Dentist Regularly

To protect your brain, you need to protect your teeth and gums. Bacteria from gum disease could travel upwards to the brain, inciting a chain reaction of inflammation that causes brain damage. Be sure and keep up with your home-care routine, and see your dentist regularly for check-ups.

Avoid Drugs That Raise Your Risk of Dementia

There are certain drugs, like common allergy and sleep medications, that may raise your dementia risk. Researchers have shown these drugs to have an anticholinergic effect, meaning that they inhibit the activity of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Aside from older allergy drugs and some sleep medications, some antidepressants, COPD, and asthma medications could have anticholinergic properties. Talk to your doctor and ask him/her if your drugs present a dementia risk. If they do, explore safer alternatives, including essential oils, supplements, and other natural treatments, that may help with your symptoms.

Check Your Vitamin D Levels

People who are severely vitamin D deficient may face an increased risk of dementia. To determine your baseline vitamin D levels, ask your doctor for a test. If you find out that you’re deficient, you can increase vitamin D by taking in more vitamin D-rich foods or through sensible sun exposure. If you need to supplement, choose the vitamin D3 form, which is more bioavailable to your body than D2.

Go Organic

What impact do the chemicals in our food have on our brains? There is a large and growing body of research about the health effects of organophosphate pesticides — a group of insecticides sprayed on many fruits and vegetables. According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a group of teenagers exposed to common agricultural pesticides before birth had distinctive reductions in certain types of brain activity. The study found that during executive-function tasks, brain activation was decreased in the prefrontal cortex in teens with higher levels of prenatal pesticide exposure, as compared to teens whose exposure was lower.

If you’ve been dreaming of having your own garden, now may be the best time to start growing one. As an alternative, buy organic versions of the fruits and vegetables you love. And beware of the ‘dirty dozen.’ These are the 12 items that are the most heavily sprayed of all the produce types and, therefore, you should always buy organic versions of them. They include: Strawberries, Spinach, Kale, Nectarines, Apples, Grapes, Peaches, Cherries, Pears, Tomatoes, Celery, and Potatoes.

Take Care of Risk Factors

Some dementia cases could actually be delayed or even prevented if attention is paid to modifiable risk factors like hypertension, obesity, hearing loss, depression, diabetes, physical inactivity, and smoking. If you’re struggling with any of these conditions, consult your doctor. Many of these risk factors can be reduced simply by following the tips in this article, like adopting a Mediterranean diet, drinking lots of (filtered) water, engaging in aerobic exercise on a regular basis, and getting high-quality sleep every night.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit

Free Weekly Newsletter

The DISCOUNT GUIDE

FREE DOWNLOAD

Submit your name and email address and we'll mail you aa copy of The Senior Life Discount Guide, FREE!