You’ve heard it all before — living an active, healthy lifestyle is crucial for surviving well into your senior years. And if someone in your family has dementia, then you’re probably particularly wary of how you’re treating your body. In case you’re unfamiliar, this condition is characterized by cognitive decline. This can include memory loss and a reduction in the ability to communicate and properly reason or judge. And even the simplest everyday habits may be increasing your risk.
Remember — Alzheimer’s is just one type of dementia
Alzheimer’s is certainly the most talked about form of dementia, but it’s by no means the only one. There’s also cognitive decline that can occur from poor heart health, or Parkinson’s disease that develops into dementia over time.
While some forms of this condition are totally genetic, there’s a lot you can do to protect your brain. To start with the obvious, eating right, exercising, and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption and smoking are a few. As for the not so obvious habits, this next one you’ll definitely want to break.
Next: This is the habit you absolutely must break.
The habit to break: Going to too many loud concerts
All those concerts of your youth may have lead to some hearing loss, which can actually increase your odds of developing dementia. Beltone explains several studies show a correlation between hearing loss greater than 25 decibels and dementia development in adults over 60. Researchers are still trying to find exactly why this is, but in the meantime, make sure you’re protecting your hearing.
This isn’t the only habit you need to break to avoid dementia, either. Read on for even more.
Next: Add this specific type of fruit into your diet.
Not eating citrus
Fruit is a necessary part of a healthy diet, but citrus might be key in preventing dementia. A study from the British Journal of Nutrition used data on 13,000 Japanese adults and found those who ate citrus nearly every day were a lot less likely to develop the condition. Mandarin oranges were the most common citrus fruit consumed amongst this demographic, AARP notes. But if you can get your hands on clementines, grapefruit, lemons, limes, or oranges, that works just fine, too.
Next: If you’re eating a lot of this type of food, you need to stop.
Eating a lot of white foods
Still on the nutrition side of things, there are some foods that increase the likelihood of developing memory loss. Alzheimers.net says “white foods,” like white bread, flour, white rice, pasta, and sugar are amongst some of the biggest offenders. These foods spike your blood sugar when you eat them, resulting in inflammation, which can really harm your brain. You’ll want to watch your processed meat and dairy consumption, too, as that’s also not helping.
Next: Protect your noggin at all costs.
Ignoring your seat belt and not wearing your helmet
If you’ve ever experienced a traumatic brain injury, the Alzheimer’s Association notes you may have an increased risk of developing dementia. One study in particular shows older adults who have a history of moderate brain injuries are over twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to seniors who have no such history. And older adults who have experienced severe trauma may be over four times as likely.
Just to be clear, not everyone who has had a head injury will develop dementia. But you’ll want to wear a helmet on your bike rides just in case.
Next: Are you getting eight hours of sleep a night?
Staying up way past your bedtime
CNN says 45% of the world’s population isn’t getting enough sleep — and it’s becoming a public health crisis. A study from Neurology shows those who get less deep, REM sleep may be more likely to develop dementia later in life. This may be because disturbed sleep causes more buildup of beta amyloid. This is the protein that forms into the plaque that kills brain cells and slows your ability to process information.
Next: These conditions can also lead to dementia.
Leaving your high blood pressure or diabetes untreated
High blood pressure and diabetes aren’t just harmful to your body — they’re also hurting your brain when left untreated. Howard Fillit, M.D., tells Reader’s Digest diabetics have an increased risk of developing dementia by up to 73%. And having hypertension is also hurting your brain health significantly.
If you do have either of these diseases, then it’s important to visit a doctor and get their recommendation on how best to manage it. And as always, do your best to avoid hypertension and diabetes with a healthy lifestyle.
Next: You need to watch how much of this mineral you’re consuming.
Having too much (or too little) magnesium
If you haven’t been thinking too much about your intake of this mineral, we highly suggest you start. Medical News Today reports a study in the journal Neurology found subjects who had very low or very high magnesium levels after a nine-year period were 30% more likely to develop dementia.
If you’re unsure of what your levels are and dementia runs in your family, you may want to ask your doctor for a test. And if you’re in need of more magnesium in your diet, you can’t go wrong with dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, and fish.
Next: If you’ve had this medical emergency, your brain could be paying for it.
You’ve had a stroke previously
Going through a stroke is difficult enough — but here’s something else to worry about. The Alzheimer’s Society states 1 out of every 10 stroke survivors is likely to develop dementia within a year of when they had their stroke. And within five years, those odds increase to 32%.
The majority of stroke survivors who develop this disease get vascular dementia, which is brain damage from reduced blood flow to the brain. This form of the disease is actually the second most common, too.
Next: This medical issue can also contribute to dementia risk.
Dealing with chronic pain
Dealing with a disease that puts you in chronic pain? You may be at an increased risk for developing dementia. The New York Times reports researchers interviewed over 10,000 people between 1998 and 2000. Then, in 2012, they tracked their health once again. Those who reported dealing with chronic pain back in 1998 had nearly an 8% increased risk of developing dementia over those who didn’t. The study’s not without its flaws, but even so — the connection seems pretty undeniable.
Next: Now may be a good time to start meditating.
Stressing out over your job 24/7
Stress causes a lot of health issues, and a high-stress job may actually contribute to your dementia risk. A study from the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia found those who felt they didn’t have much control over their jobs had a higher risk of developing this mental disease. And when this was coupled with having a very demanding profession, it also contributed to their odds.
The takeaway? Work on your stress levels to help your brain.
Next: This virus may cause brain inflammation.
The herpes virus (the one that causes cold sores and stays in your body for life) is more common than you think. And the Alzheimer’s Society says the virus is often found in parts of the brain that are particularly affected in the case of Alzheimer’s and dementia. This is what researchers think: The virus could cause inflammation in the brain, which can trigger the disease.
Don’t worry too much — the herpes virus is also found in the brain’s of healthy people, too, so it’s by no means a death sentence.
Next: If you’re this ethnicity, you may have an increased risk.
Being from India, Pakistan, or any other South Asian country
We know this one is totally out of your control, but even so — you should know you may have an increased risk if you’re of South Asian descent. The Alzheimer’s Society says evidence suggests South Asian folks develop vascular dementia more often than white European people. Those from this part of the world are also generally at an increased risk for stroke, heart disease, and diabetes, which may contribute to the dementia risk.
Keep in mind there are plenty of other factors, like your age, genes, and gender that can influence whether or not you get dementia, too.
Next: Avoid eating around this time.
Snacking late at night
Love your midnight snack? This may be a habit you’ll want to break for improved brain health. Richard Isaacson, M.D., tells Health, “Fasting for a minimum of 12 hours, as well as eating fewer calories overall, may be a way to promote brain health as we age.”
And it’s double trouble if you’re reaching for those sugary, unhealthy snacks when the sun goes down. Not only are you directly hurting your brain, but you’re destroying your sleep cycle.
Next: Here are some early warning signs you need to know.
Think you may be developing dementia? Here are some early signs
Having dementia is a scary thought, so it’s wise to know the symptoms as soon as they start. Healthline explains you may experience serious mood changes, a loss of interest in hobbies you once enjoyed, confusion, and difficulty following directions. Also, if you’re struggling with your short-term memory more often than usual, don’t shrug it off as just a sign of getting older — see if you have any other symptoms.
If you notice these shifts in you or someone else, getting a doctor’s recommendation to a neurologist can help you learn more.