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Proven Ways to Reduce Your Dementia Risk

Senior adults working out

Brain health starts early

One in three dementia cases could potentially be prevented by modifying risk factors. “How we treat our body impacts our brain and vice versa,” Denise Mohess MD, Geriatric Medicine, Bridgeport Hospital. “Young adulthood and midlife is a good time to start thinking about long-term brain health.”

Strengthen your mind by strengthening your body

“There are a few brain boosting behaviors that reduce dementia risk,” said Mithil Choksey MD, medical director for the Division of Geriatrics at Bridgeport Hospital. “Following the Mediterranean diet, which incorporates seafood, nuts, greens and fruits, can possibly reduce the risk of developing dementia by over 30 percent.”

Dr. Choksey also highlights that exercise can cut dementia risk by about 33 percent. People need to hit a moderate level for 45 minutes, five days a week to reap that significant benefit.

Learn something new—with friends—to improve brain function and memory

“Keep learning,” said Dr. Choksey. “Whether it be writing, dancing, or painting— learning stimulates brain activity and improves our cognitive reserve.”

Additionally, social connections and community have a large protective factor against dementia. “We observed an accelerated course of decline in our patients in the early days post pandemic and that seems to be due to increased loneliness,” said Dr. Choksey.

A goodnight’s sleep keeps the brain healthy

While you sleep your body is clearing harmful protein waste in a process that may reduce the risk of dementia. “We sleep less as we age, but not because we need less sleep,” said Dr. Choksey. If we are sleep deprived our neurotransmitters don’t function optimally and people can’t think clearly.”

Sleep aids and benzodiazepines can be helpful for short term use, but long term use can have a negative impact on brain health. Seeing a sleep specialist for chronic sleep issues is recommended.

Get your hearing checked early and often

“Hearing has a large impact on dementia because it is our key to engaging with the world,” said Dr. Mohess.

Yearly hearing tests are recommended for people after the age of 60, regardless of whether or not they are experiencing symptoms.

Depression & memory loss

Depression in older adults, which is connected with memory loss can almost always be addressed with treatment and support. A geriatrician or primary care doctor can point you in the right direction.

“We want older adults to know that they will be supported if they seek help and that their concerns are valid,” said Dr. Choksey. “It is amazing how much gratitude we see in our practice with this approach.”

Dementia fact or fad?

Alcohol: “Red wine is ok for most people in moderation, but if you aren’t a drinker—there is no brain health reason to start drinking,” said Dr. Choksey.

Supplements: There’s no strong data that any medication or supplement currently on the market can prevent dementia.

Coffee: Good news for those who love coffee. “There is evidence that caffeine consumption has a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment,” said Dr. Choksey. “The CAIDE trial showed drinking three to five cups per day during midlife was associated with a decreased risk of Alzheimer's dementia.”

The future of dementia care

“We are too quick to put labels on older adults,” said Dr. Mohess, who helped launch a geriatric oncology program. “There is so much nuance when it comes to aging and dementia. We can live a meaningful existence at any age. I am excited to see older people included in more research and more providers listening to their needs.”