Many researchers believe that it is possible to prevent dementia. At this point, strategies involve stimulating your brain (with activities such as playing chess) and minimizing, managing, or eliminating risk factors that may increase your chances of developing symptoms. Risk factors for dementia include having high blood pressure, smoking, and having diabetes.
Preventing Dementia: An OverviewOne of the greatest fears that people have as they age is that they will "lose their mind." In fact, many people think that dementia is just part of growing old. The fact is that dementia is not caused by getting older, but by a number of conditions that affect the brain (see Causes of Dementia to learn more).
So if it is not part of growing older, can dementia be prevented? Dementia research has revealed a number of factors that may affect a person's chances of developing symptoms or that slow down the onset of such symptoms.
Based on these factors, dementia prevention strategies include:
- Knowing your dementia risk factors
- Monitoring your health and making lifestyle changes
- Stimulating your brain.
Other factors that may play a role in preventing dementia include:
- Your education level
- Reducing inflammation and using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
Dementia Prevention: Know the Risk FactorsPreventing dementia begins by understanding the risk factors. Risk factors are conditions or behaviors that increase your chances of getting a certain condition. Some risk factors can be treated or controlled and some cannot. Also, certain risk factors are more likely to increase the risk for certain types of dementia. For example, the risk of vascular dementia is strongly correlated with risk factors for stroke. Finally, the more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of having dementia.
An example of a risk factor for dementia that you cannot change is growing older (the risk of this condition tends to increase with age). Other risk factors you cannot control include such things as having:
- A family history of dementia
- Down syndrome
- Mild cognitive impairment
- A history of stroke.
Dementia risk factors that you can control include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol (hypercholesterolemia)
- Heavy alcohol use.
There are also things that you can control that increase your risk for developing conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes. These include:
- Being overweight or obese
- A lack of physical activity
- Following an unhealthy diet.
(Click Dementia Risk Factors for more information about traits, conditions, and other factors that may increase a person's chances of having dementia.)