What Science tells us about preventing Dementia

Alzheimer's statistics can seem scary and make us feel powerless, but by being aware of what the risk factors are we can take back control now rather than waiting in fear to see if it shows up in our older years. 

Science and research are helping us understand the brain and the causes of dementia. And when we understand what contributes to dementia, we can work to prevent it.

The latest research is focusing, not on curing Alzheimer's, as there is no cure.  The current trend of research is on PREVENTION in the first place.

When is the best time to start preventing dementia?  NOW  (this applies to you regardless of your age.)

Middle-age (long before many people even think about aging and dementia) is the best time to start making changes to their lifestyle to prevent dementia.  Control your risk factors, and improve your chances to avoid Alzheimer's disease.

Research shows controlling risk factors can potentially prevent 30% of Alzheimer's!

Risk Factors you can't control:

  • Age - The older you get, the higher your risk.  BUT, getting older is inevitable.  
  • Genetics - Scientists have discovered two genes that can impact on your likelihood of developing Alzheimer's. The APOE4 gene variant can increase your risk, while having the APOE2 gene variant can decrease your risk.  But, neither variant will guarantee you will or won’t develop Alzheimer's.

The thought of Alzheimer's might seem scary and make a person feel powerless, but there’s no reason to worry and live in fear of developing Alzheimer's. There are some things in your control and actions that you can do NOW to lower your risk.


Read the full Lancet Dementia 2017 Commission: The Lancet: Dementia prevention, intervention, and care

Some of these next risk factors are easier to manage than others, and some are just unavoidable.  But knowledge is power.  Focus on what you CAN change, and let the rest go. If you reduce these factors in your life, you MIGHT be able to reduce your risk of Alzheimers.  

Risk factors you might be able to influence:

  • Hypertension (aka High Blood Pressure) at midlife (that’s right, – NOW—, ages 35-64, is the time to reduce your risk)
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Midlife Obesity (There’s that “midlife” again, ages 35-64)
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking (as if you didn’t have enough reasons not to smoke)
  • Brain injuries increase risk (Including concussions.  Even repeated or severe hitting of your head, including from soccer and football)
  • Low education / leaving school early (You can counter-act this with life-long learning: visit museums, learn another language, read books, do challenging puzzles)
  • Excessive drinking
  • Untreated Depression (This is a KEY RISK FACTOR, according to the research)

NONE of these factors will definitely cause or prevent any form of dementia.  But they CAN increase or decrease your risk.

Alzheimer's statistics can seem scary and make us feel powerless, but by being aware of what the risk factors are we can take back control now rather than waiting in fear to see if it shows up in our older years.

What else can you do to lower your risk of dementia?

  • Education – Life long learning is a huge way to build your "cognitive reserve" and decrease your risk.  Have questions about brain training?  There's emerging research that doing client-specific brain training / exercise programs can make a difference.  
  • Diet – In general, what’s good for your heart is good for your brain.  For example, the Mediterranean diet, or the DASH diet are showing to be beneficial.
  • Exercise - What is good for your heart is good for your brain.  Movement helps you stay health, keeps your blood and oxygen moving.
  • Socialize - Much of the research emerging includes importance of a social connection for brain and mood health.  

  Learn more about working memory and attention: