Dementia is a cognitive decline that affects memory, thinking, problem-solving ability, and other aspects of mental function. It reduces a person’s ability to perform everyday activities and live independently.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, but there are many forms, including vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal dementia.

Besides affecting a person’s quality of life, dementia places immense emotional and financial strain on families and caregivers. And as the global population ages, the number of people living with dementia is increasing. Therefore, the need for effective prevention strategies is greater than ever.

Evidence suggests that modifiable risk factors, such as an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking, and uncontrolled chronic health conditions, can contribute to the development of dementia. Addressing these risk factors through lifestyle changes and appropriate medical interventions can significantly reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

This article examines lifestyle changes that may help prevent dementia.

Preventing dementiaShare on Pinterest
Sean Locke/Stocky

Preventing dementia is a complex and multifaceted challenge, as doctors have not identified one specific cause. Rather, the condition stems from various factors, including age, genetics, family history, and lifestyle habits.

While there is no guarantee that changing any one factor can prevent dementia, growing evidence suggests that addressing modifiable risk factors can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing the condition.

Several lifestyle habits, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and lack of physical activity, can contribute to cognitive decline and development of dementia. Furthermore, chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes increase a person’s risk of dementia.

By managing these risk factors and making informed health choices, individuals can improve their cognitive health and potentially delay the onset of dementia.

Visit our dedicated dementia hub to learn more.

Dementia is a complex condition, and experts continue to learn more about its causes and contributing factors. A person cannot change some dementia risk factors, such as:

  • age
  • genetics
  • family history

However, they can change modifiable risk factors, including lifestyle habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

Experts estimate that about 4 in 10 cases of dementia are preventable if people avoid risk factors and make healthy lifestyle choices.


A balanced diet is crucial for overall health and brain health because it provides the essential nutrients for proper functioning.

Research suggests that the Mediterranean diet and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet may reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

These eating plans emphasize plant-based foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats. They also avoid processed foods with high levels of saturated fats, added sugars, preservatives, trans fats, flavorings, and colorings.

Furthermore, a balanced diet helps people maintain a moderate body weight and minimize the risk of obesity, a recognized dementia risk factor.

Learn more about the benefits of healthy eating.


Regular physical activity can help prevent obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other dementia risk factors. It also promotes the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters, which can regulate mood and help prevent depression, another Alzheimer’s disease risk factor.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, boosting oxygen and nutrient supply. It also promotes neuron growth and the formation of new connections between brain cells, which may support cognitive function.

Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise each week to optimize these benefits. People should also perform muscle-strengthening activities 2 days per week.

Learn more about the benefits of exercise.


Consuming large amounts of alcohol increases the risk of dementia. Alcohol is a toxin that can directly damage brain cells. Heavy use can also lead to a deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1), which is essential for proper brain function.

Excessive alcohol intake also contributes to the narrowing and hardening of blood vessels. This raises the risk of vascular conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, which increase the likelihood of developing dementia.

Experts do not associate moderate alcohol consumption directly with increased dementia risk. However, people should still follow guidelines — females should consume no more than one drink per day, and males no more than two drinks per day. A single drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of spirits.

Learn more about the effects of alcohol on health.

Mental health

There is a significant link among mental health, depression, and dementia risk. Individuals with a history of depression have an increased risk of developing dementia.

Experts are still investigating the link between these conditions. It is possible that depression and dementia share biological mechanisms, such as changes in neurotransmitter levels or inflammation in the brain.

It is unclear whether treating depression reduces the risk of dementia, but doctors believe preventing depression in the first place can help.

Physical health

A person’s physical health contributes to their dementia risk. In addition, various medical conditions, such as the following, play a significant role in the likelihood of developing dementia:

  • Vascular issues: Conditions affecting the vascular system, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, can compromise blood flow to the brain. This increases the risk of vascular dementia.
  • Diabetes: Unmanaged diabetes can increase a person’s blood sugar levels. This can lead to inflammation, oxidative stress, and damage to blood vessels in the brain, contributing to cognitive decline.
  • Obesity: Doctors link excess body weight with increased inflammation, insulin resistance, and metabolic disorders. These issues adversely affect brain health.
  • Chronic kidney disease: Kidney dysfunction can cause a buildup of harmful substances in the blood, impairing cognitive function and contributing to dementia.
  • Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases: Conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis stem from chronic inflammation, which can negatively affect brain health.
  • Hearing loss: Older adults with hearing loss may have an increased risk of developing dementia. Hearing loss can affect cognition and make it more challenging for people to interact with others.
  • Head trauma: Research has found that head trauma, such as concussions occurring from sports, may contribute to long-term risk of developing a neurodegenerative disease.

Taking care of physical health is crucial in reducing dementia risk. Besides eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet and staying active through regular exercise, people should carefully manage any chronic health conditions.

It is essential to attend regular health checkups and screenings. Doctors may recommend medications to help manage existing health issues, as doing so can reduce the risk of complications and dementia.

Individuals should also limit their alcohol intake and follow alcohol consumption guidelines to help protect the brain from the adverse effects of excessive alcohol use. For people who smoke, seeking support to quit smoking is also crucial for reducing the risk of dementia and other serious health conditions.

By maintaining healthy lifestyle habits and working closely with healthcare professionals to address health concerns, individuals can reduce their dementia risk and promote overall brain health.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the risk of developing dementia.

People should aim to eat a nutrient-rich diet, exercise regularly, and manage any underlying health conditions. They should also make efforts to quit smoking, if applicable, and limit alcohol consumption.

By adopting a holistic approach to physical and mental health, individuals can improve their health and reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline.