The Five Ways To Help Ward Off Dementia

  • Research by Age UK found five lifestyle factors which may cut risk
  • Eating healthily, not smoking and exercising can lower chance of dementia
  • Men who followed steps 36 per cent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s

Living a healthy lifestyle could cut your risk of dementia by a third, claim leading health specialists.

Analysis by Age UK suggests there are five steps people can take to maintain brain health and reduce their risk of developing diseases such as Alzheimers.

The review of academic studies and data reveals that lifestyle contributes to about three-quarters of cognitive decline, the type of changes in thinking skills which increase with age including memory loss and speed of thinking.

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Analysis by Age UK suggests there are five steps people can take to maintain brain health (file image)

A major study included in the review found men who followed five tips for healthy living had a 36 per cent lower risk of developing cognitive decline and a 36 per cent lower risk of developing dementia than those who did not.

The key factors were taking regular exercise, not smoking, a healthy bodyweight, eating a Mediterranean diet and a low alcohol intake.

The advice has become increasingly familiar from other research that shows staying slim, eating lots of fruit and vegetables, exercising regularly, never smoking, and drinking in moderation is the recipe for dementia-free longevity.

The new findings come from The Disconnected Mind, an Age UK funded research project into how thinking skills alter with age, which suggests that changing lifestyle can result in health benefits.

The review, which included the latest international dementia studies, also found that preventing and treating diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity could reduce the risk of dementia.

The review highlighted the importance of physical exercise aerobic, resistance or balance – as the most effective way to ward off cognitive decline in healthy older people and reduce the risk of developing Alzheimers disease.

Studies suggest that exercise three to five times a week for between 30 minutes and an hour is beneficial.

In the UK, adults are urged to do 150 minutes of activity a week to promote health but barely a third manage it.

It found that there are significantly more new cases of Alzheimers among current smokers compared with those who have never smoked.

The review also backed up claims that very heavy drinking is also linked to dementia, resulting in the loss of brain tissue particularly in the parts of the brain responsible for memory and processing and interpreting visual information.


A healthy weight is a healthy body mass index (BMI) score. BMI is assessed by comparing height to weight, in a calculation which divides weight in kilos by height in metres squared. A healthy score is between 18.5 and 24.99 above is overweight and obese.

Never smoking is recommended, but smokers who give up by the age of 40 can gain 10 years of extra life, claim scientists.

The Mediterranean diet is high in fish, nuts, whole grains and healthy fats such as those in olive oil, while low in red meat and dairy products. Studies suggest three to five or more portions of fruit and vegetables with fat making up less than 30 per cent of calories.

Doing exercise three to five times a week for between 30 minutes and an hour is recommended.

In the UK, adults are urged to do 150 minutes of activity a week to promote health but barely a third manage it.

Low or moderate alcohol consumption is classified as three or fewer units per day for men, two or fewer for women, with abstinence not treated as a healthy behaviour. A small 125ml glass of wine contains 1.3 units, while a pint of beer contains at least two units.

But moderate levels of alcohol protect brain tissue by increasing good cholesterol and lowering bad cholesterol.

According to the latest estimates, there are 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK said While theres still no cure or way to reverse dementia, this evidence shows that there are simple and effective ways to reduce our risk of developing it to begin with.

Whats more, the changes that we need to make to keep our brains healthy are already proven to be good for the heart and overall health, so its common sense for us all to try to build them into our lives. The sooner we start, the better our chance of having a healthy later life.

Dr Matthew Norton, head of policy at Alzheimers Research UK, said This review of existing research highlights a growing body of evidence suggesting that lifestyle factors play an important role in our risk of dementia and cognitive decline.

Its now recognised across public health authorities that lifestyle changes could contribute to reducing dementia risk. Its now time for these messages to start reaching the public to help empower people protect their cognitive health as they grow older.

A number of studies have suggested that whats good for the heart is good for the brain, and we know that regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, not smoking and not drinking too much can help to reduce the risk of dementia.

Evidence also suggests that controlling blood pressure and keeping weight in check may help to lower the risk of the condition.

Its important to remember that diseases like Alzheimers are complex and are likely to be caused by a mixture of genetic and environmental factors, which are still not fully understood he added.


  1. ^ Jenny Hope Medical Correspondent For The Daily Mail (www.dailymail.co.uk)

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