Can dementia be prevented?

While a steady cognitive decline is often part of normal aging, Alzheimer’s and other dementias are not.

While we cannot influence some risk factors, such as our genetics and advancing age, some risk factors for dementia are modifiable.

MNT spoke with Iris Blotenberg, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, who was not involved in the recent research. She explained that modifiable risk factors “are associated with at least one-third of dementia cases.” These factors include:

Blotenberg said that other health conditions can also increase the risk of developing dementia, such as “stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, and obesity.”

As these conditions are more likely in people who are sedentary, smoke, and drink frequently, addressing these factors can make a real difference to an individual’s dementia risk.

Blotenberg added that hearing loss is a risk factor for dementia because “stimulation is very important for our brain to maintain cognitive function. Therefore, it is highly recommended to use a hearing aid if you or those around you notice a decline in hearing ability.”

Finally, social isolation — something that is increasingly commonTrusted Source in Western societies — increases the risk of dementia.

“For us as social beings, social engagement is incredibly important and, not least, a vital form of stimulation for our brain,” Blotenberg said.

MNT also spoke with Geir Selbæk, a professor in the Department of Geriatric Medicine at the University of Oslo in Norway. Alongside the risk factors outlined above, he suggested people should “avoid head injury and areas with high levels of air pollution.”

Selbæk, who was not involved in the recent study, explained that stress may also be a risk factor. So, finding ways to minimize or deal with daily stresses could be helpful.

“In general, it is beneficial to start as early as possible and maintain a healthy lifestyle, but it is never too late,” Blotenberg said.

“It is always good to continue to be cognitively active — stimulation is crucial for our brain. Therefore, within your means, stay cognitively, socially, and physically active, but be careful not to overextend yourself,” she concluded.