This 1 Surprisingly Easy Habit Could Lower Your Dementia Risk for Good

Dementia is a devastating, life-altering disease that affects millions of older adults in the United States. Thousands of people die from it every year — it’s one of the top 10 leading causes of death in the nation. Scientists are trying to find a cure, but for now, its effects are irreversible. It affects not only patients but also their caregivers, who make major sacrifices to help care for their loved ones.

This disease is more common than you think. Even a handful of celebrities have had it. Though all this might make you feel hopeless, there’s one surprising habit that could trim down your risk.

What is dementia?

Two trees in the shape of a human head and brain as a symbol of the stress

Dementia has no cure. | iStock.com/wildpixel

According to the National Institute on Aging, it’s a progressive brain disease that affects a person’s memory, personality, and overall health and well-being. People with the disease have difficulty thinking, communicating, learning, remembering, and making decisions. There is no cure.

Next: You’ve probably heard of at least one type of dementia — but there are actually many.

Types of dementia besides Alzheimer’s

Doctor and patient

Parkinson’s and Creutzfeldt-Jakob also affect cognitive health. | iStock.com/AlexRaths

Alzheimer’s disease — probably the most well-known form of dementia — isn’t the only condition that can cause your brain to deteriorate slowly over time. Parkinson’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease can also impact your cognitive health significantly.

Next: Could you already have dementia and not know it?

Early warning signs of dementia you should know

Senior Man With Adult Daughter

Difficulty remembering simple tasks is an early sign that something’s wrong.  | Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock/Getty Images

Forgetfulness affects most people in the early stages of dementia, but it’s just one of many possible warning signs. If you’re having trouble completing simple tasks like laundry or cooking, or problem-solving has become more difficult for you than usual, it could be something serious.

Next: This disease is actually a widespread public health problem.

Millions of people are living with dementia right now

senior couple reading a map while traveling

Millions of Americans suffer from dementia. | jacoblund/iStock/Getty Images

Experts estimate that over 5 million adults are currently living with Alzheimer’s or related diseases. Even though your level of risk might depend on the state you live in or whether or not someone in your family has it, one factor stands out from the rest.

Next: This dementia risk factor is a big deal — and there’s no way to avoid it.

Most people with dementia are over 65

A senior stands on the rear deck of a cruise ship

Seniors are at the highest risk for dementia. | jeffclow/iStock / Getty Images Plus

Though it isn’t the only type, Alzheimer’s dementia is the most common. Of the over 5 million people living with the disease, over 80% are over 65. Due to the effects of aging on the body, your risk skyrockets beyond this age.

Next: How does getting older hurt your brain?

Why does your dementia risk increase as you get older?

MRI Image for Brain

Dementia is related to a buildup of proteins in the brain. | iStock.com/Highwaystarz-Photography

If dementia isn’t caused by a brain injury, it’s likely due to a buildup of proteins in your brain over time. Collections of these proteins, called plaques, are often found in the brains of people already living with dementia and interfere with your ability to think, remember, and function.

Next: Some of your daily habits might be increasing your risk.

What other factors increase your risk?

worried young man sits on the edge of a bed

Living with depression increases your risk of dementia. | iStock/Getty Images

Taking certain medications, spending too much time indoors, and even living with untreated mental health conditions like depression can increase your risk.

Next: You might still be able to diminish your risk.

Is there anything you can do about it?

You can take steps to decrease your risk. | Monkeybusinessimages/iStock/Getty Images

While you can’t reverse your age or change your genes, there are a few things you can do to decrease your risk. No matter your age, adopting a few simple and effective daily habits might be able to change your brain for the better.

Next: This easy habit can completely change your brain.

Exercise might be the key to lowering your dementia risk

Senior couple performing yoga exercise

Exercise can work wonders for your mental health. | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

Not exercising as much as you know you should — or as much as your doctor has told you to? Even moderate exercise just a few days a week can trigger healthy brain aging. It’s not just good for your body and soul — your mind’s begging you to sweat.

Next: You’re probably already eating some of the best brain foods.

A certain type of diet might also protect your brain

Olive oil in a bowl

Tom will avoid processed oils. | Dulezidar/iStock/Getty Images

Unlike many fad food crazes out there, the Mediterranean diet might actually keep your brain healthy. Eating more nuts, fish, plant-based foods, and olive oils keeps your heart healthy, which might indirectly protect your brain, too.

Next: Comedy is medicine, it turns out.

Laughter and brain health

Yoga posture

Laughter is great for your brain. | natalie_board/ Getty Images

Have you laughed enough lately? More frequent giggling keeps your brain in shape. It behaves almost like a natural antidepressant, releasing serotonin and keeping you both happy and healthy.

Next: You don’t have to quit this habit, but do be careful.

Go ahead, drink — but not too much

A drink every now and again won’t hurt you. | Derkien/iStock/Getty Images

You already know too much alcohol isn’t good for you. It damages your body’s most vital organs, especially if you drink heavily over a long period of time. A little bit of wine, though, might actually decrease your risk of dementia, even though doctors aren’t exactly sure why. Stick to a glass or two a day, if you can.

Next: Avoid these habits to stay young — and healthy.

These bad habits are aging you

Elderly care and respect

Unhealthy habits can age you before your time. | iStock.com/vladans

Feeling old? Mind your daily habits. Don’t sit too much or eat too much added sugar. Also remember that a thriving social life does a body — and mind — good.

Next: You can’t stop your body from getting older — but can you stall your brain’s aging?

Here’s how to keep your brain young

elderly group of women having a meal

Healthy foods and a busy social life are important to a long life. | monkeybusinessimages/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

If you’re already eating plenty of beans, chicken, and fish, you’re in great shape. These and plenty of other foods might help keep your brain young. Keeping up with family and friends and engaging in brain training activities will also sharpen your cognition.

Next: Don’t want to work out in a gym? You’re in luck.

Quick, easy exercises you can do in your living room

Exercising from home can do a lot of good. | Comstock/iStock/Getty Images

If even the thought of going to the gym makes you want to skip exercise altogether, don’t worry. These quick exercises burn calories fast, and you don’t need a gym membership to make them happen.

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