Doctors Reveal 15 Things You Should Do to Avoid Getting Dementia

Over 5 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease — and that’s just one of many different types of dementia you can develop as you age. If you’re like most people over the age of 50, and want to avoid getting dementia, you’re in luck. There are many risk factors, like what you eat and how you sleep, that are completely under your control.

Here’s what doctors recommend you should to to lower your dementia risk and live a long life full of memories you can hold onto.

1. Mind your alcohol intake

red wine pouring in a restaurant

Booze should be kept to a minimum. | CarlosAndreSantos/iStock/Getty Images

 Alcohol does not cause dementia — if you’re already limiting yourself to one or two drinks per day, you probably don’t need to change your drinking habits. But excessive alcohol intake can increase your dementia risk — and getting your drinking under better control can lower your chances of developing it.

Next: Do you toss and turn at night? That could be a problem.

2. Fix your love-hate relationship with sleep

Alarm clock on night table

Sleep is more important than you think. |

Do you lose a lot of sleep without meaning to? It turns out poor sleeping habits put you at higher risk for developing several different forms of dementia. Do what you can to sleep better and stay healthy to avoid getting sick.

Next: Are you eating too much of this type of food?

3. Acknowledge your sugar addiction

Warm chocolate lava cake sprinkled with powdered sugar

Sugar and brain function don’t go hand-in-hand. | viennetta/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Your sweet tooth might be hurting your brain. You don’t have to give up snacks or desserts entirely — you’re trying to improve your life, not make yourself miserable. Just do what you can to decrease the amount of added sugars in your diet if you want to avoid getting dementia.

Next: Picking up this habit might save your life.

4. Meditate

Young black woman doing yoga

Take time every day for yourself. |

If you’ve never tried yoga or mindfulness meditation, either or both could be the key to lowering your risk of dementia. You don’t have to go to a class or even sit in complete silence. Everyone’s ideal meditation environment is different, so find a routine that works for you and stick with it.

Next: Meditation can really help with this major risk factor.

5. Get your stress under control

man at a desk

Let things you can’t control go. |

Life is stressful, no matter what stage of it you find yourself in. Too much of it can really wear down your body and your mind, especially if you’re not doing much to control it. Avoid getting dementia by practicing good stress management daily.

Next: It’s never too late to learn a new skill.

6. Start learning a second language

computer screen

Try learning a language you’re interested in. |

Have you always wanted to travel to a foreign country, but hesitated because you never had time to learn the language? It’s never too late to do both. In fact, learning a second or even a third language can change your brain and lower your dementia risk.

Next: There might be a reason your doctor has made this suggestion.

7. Lose weight, if your doctor says you should

Woman weighing her weight

It can be hard, but worth the effort. |

Research suggests that people who are overweight or obese face a higher risk of dementia than those within an acceptable weight range for their height. Even gradual weight loss over many months or years can help you avoid getting dementia as you get older.

Next: Here’s another habit you should pick up, if you haven’t already.

8. Exercise more than you sit

Older exercing

Get up and move! | Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images

Doctors have linked a sedentary lifestyle to an increased risk of dementia. If you don’t move, your brain could really suffer. Exercise not only keeps your heart and bones strong — it also keeps your brain healthy as you age.

Next: Have a little fun, and protect your brain at the same time.

9. Play memory games

Make crosswords part of your morning routine. |

It’s important to be wary of brain training apps that promise to improve your memory, but really don’t. That doesn’t mean certain memory exercises can’t help you avoid getting dementia. Something as simple as memorizing and reciting the state capitals can make a difference over time.

Next: Get this under control before it hurts your health.

10. Manage your blood pressure

Nurse Visiting Senior Male Patient

Keep an eye on your blood pressure. |

Have high blood pressure — or at risk for developing it? People who don’t get their blood pressure under control are more likely to develop a handful of chronic diseases — everything from heart disease to kidney failure to dementia.

Next: If you’re still doing this after your doctor said not to, quit.

11. Don’t smoke

Smoking cigrette

This bad habit is no longer glamorous. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Cigarette smoking hurts your lungs and your heart, and increases your cancer risk. But did you know it also puts you at risk for developing dementia? The inflammation and oxidative stress associated with the habit can destroy your brain, too.

Next: Ask for help if you’re having this problem.

12. Talk to someone if you’re depressed

Doctor is making notes while listening to his patient

If you need help, reach out. |

Don’t keep any feelings of depression to yourself. Untreated depression can increase your dementia risk and even put you in danger of other diseases. Getting help is easier than you think, and you’ll be glad to have a support system in place, even if you don’t think you need it.

Next: You should really try eating more of these foods.

13. Eat more healthy ‘brain’ foods

assorted nuts

Brain foods will keep your mind running. | Margouillatphotos/iStock/Getty Images

You might want to consider eating more seafood, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. These foods can help keep your brain young and healthy even as you age. Start by adding one more serving of vegetables to your dinner each night, for example.

Next: This surprising habit could help you avoid dementia.

14. Keep in touch with your friends

elderly group of women having a meal

Family and friends will be more important than ever. | monkeybusinessimages/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

It’s very important to maintain an active social life, even if your circle of friends and acquaintances is fairly small. Isolating yourself from the people you love can have major consequences on your health, especially when it comes to your dementia risk.

Next: Do you know what dementia really looks like?

15. Learn the early warning signs of dementia

Older at doctor

Know the signs. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

Once you’re diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, for example, you can’t be cured. But catching the disease early can help your doctors begin treatments that will slow its progression. It’s possible to live many healthy years with dementia, so learn to recognize the signs just in case.

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