Understanding Dementia Risk Factors and Managing Symptoms

We all want to lead a healthy lifestyle, and a major part of keeping our bodies strong and healthy includes our mental well-being. As we get older, the concern of being diagnosed with dementia looms, and while there are no ways to eliminate its diagnosis completely, there are a few ways to reduce its risk.

Below, we outline some of the factors that contribute to a dementia diagnosis, how to combat these risks, and how once diagnosed with dementia you can try to keep symptoms mild for longer.

Risk Factors for Dementia

A 2020 report from the Lancet Commission outlines 12 risk factors to developing dementia, which can be modifiable to prevent the onset of the disease. Many of these risk factors are linked to lifestyle, eating habits, and social activity.

These factors include:

  • Brain injury
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Hypertension
  • Hearing impairment
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Physical inactivity
  • Low social interaction
  • Air pollution

Many of these risk factors are related to health, but there are ways to modify them to lower your chances of developing dementia.

Ways to Combat Risk Factors

A potential way to combat a number of these risk factors can start with exercising your body and mind. Maintaining physical activity will keep your body fit and healthy. Regularly exercising can prevent other risk factors on the list including: hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and depression, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Exercising is something that can be done at home, in a local park, or at the gym. This Healthline article has some great at-home workout suggestions for older adults. In addition to some easy, at-home workouts, local gyms have programs and classes specifically designed for adults ages 65 and older.

Eating healthy food can also prevent some of the aforementioned dementia risks. There are immense benefits to incorporating a healthy diet into your lifestyle, according to this Medical News Today article. Eating healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and consuming foods with more vitamins D, C and E, omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids and polyphenols and fish can all support cognitive health.

The effects of a balanced and healthy diet decrease the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. The same Medical News Today article from above discusses the benefits of eating healthy at length, but some specific benefits are better heart health, better mood, improved memory, weight loss, and strong bones and teeth.

It’s important to not smoke at all or drink alcoholic beverages in excess. Consistent consumption over time can lead to a number of health problems, and ultimately contributes to increased risk factors for dementia.

Your doctor can help you come up with a diet and exercise plan that works for you and your family’s lifestyle, so be sure to consult with them before making any significant changes.

Staying socially active can also help prevent or delay dementia. Being social can be as simple as getting together with friends for lunch, but can also be done from home over the phone or video calls. Talking with friends and family can relieve stress and provide a support environment for you to discuss your thoughts and feelings. Socializing also improves mental, physical, and brain health, according to the Second Wind Movement.

Keeping Dementia Symptoms Mild

If you or a loved one has already been diagnosed with dementia, incorporating some of these modifications to combat the risk factors can help the disease from progressing.

Physical and mental health and social care all contribute to the well-being of the individual with dementia and their caregiver. Discussing care and treatment options with your doctor is the first step in addressing these concerns. Working with dementia-focused organizations like the Caregiver Support Initiative can provide help for caregivers and the loved one they’re caring for by providing resources, information, and respite programs to the caregiver.

A great number of both early-onset or later-life dementia diagnoses can be prevented through modifying the risks outlined above. If you have more questions about preventing dementia or initial steps to take after a dementia diagnosis, do not hesitate to call the Caregiver Support Initiative at 1-800-388-0199.