I talk a lot about preserving memory. Mostly because, in my experience as a doctor, memory loss is the number one thing that people are afraid of. (Other than cancer, and now coronavirus, of course.)
But you know what? It’s also one of the most preventable.
In fact, a new report suggests that, if people simply addressed twelve key lifestyle choices over the course of their lives, it could delay or prevent a whopping 40 percent of all cases of dementia. Let’s take a look…
Twelve risky lifestyle choices
This latest report comes courtesy of the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention, and Care—and it’s an update of a previous report, released back in 2017.
That initial report identified nine different lifestyle-based risk factors as the cause of one-third of all dementia cases. Those factors included: incomplete secondary education, hypertension, obesity, hearing loss, smoking, depression, physical inactivity, social isolation, and diabetes.
Now there are three additional risk factors added to the list: excessive alcohol intake, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and air pollution. And let’s just say, I’m not the least bit surprised.
Excessive drinking and air pollution are obvious additions. (In fact, we talked about the impact of air pollution on brain health—including how you can fight back with fish oil—just last week.)
And in my view, TBI is an overdue entry—as random as it may seem. Because we’re not just talking about professional football players here.
Recreational sports like boxing and horse riding are also frequent causes of TBI—in addition to active- or post-military status. Not to mention events like falls and car, motorcycle, or bike accidents. All of which are pretty commonplace things.
But the good news is, you can address all of these lifestyle risk factors—starting today.
Ten ways to preserve brain health
The updated report offers nine key recommendations to ward off dementia—and I’ve added one final tip to that list:
- Keep your systolic blood pressure (the top number) at 130 or lower, once you hit the age of 40. (But remember, don’t focus solely on the number. Instead, work with your doctor and look at your lifestyle as a whole… including your own medical history.)
- Get hearing aids when you need them—and use them! Also, help to prevent further hearing loss with ear plugs whenever necessary, as previous research has linked hearing loss to memory loss, specifically.
- Reduce exposure to air pollution and second-hand smoke to the best of your ability—both of which alter the size and state of your brain.
- Prevent common head injuries, as I outlined above.
- Don’t have more than 21 drinks weekly—which breaks down to no more than three drinks per day. Though really, I recommend at least two alcohol-free days per week, and steering clear of sugary mixers. (Think vodka and club soda instead of Jack and Coke.)
- Stop smoking immediately, as it’s hazardous not only to your lung health, but to your overall health as well. And that includes brain health.
- Stay educated over the years. The good news is, you’re already doing that as a Reality Health Check reader! But you can also “workout” your brain with board games, crossword puzzles, and the like—all of which help keep your brain sharp as you age.
- Remain active at midlife and later. I always recommend consistent, moderate exercise to the tune of 150-minutes weekly, or roughly 20 minutes per day, for a whole host of health concerns—not least of all to help preserve your memory.
- Avoid obesity and diabetes by following a healthy lifestyle, which always begins and ends with a healthy, balanced diet full of fresh, whole foods—like my A-List Diet.
- Get proper sleep, every night. I’ve mentioned the links between poor sleep quality and Alzheimer’s here before. In short, people who suffer from declining sleep quality in their 50s and 60s also have been found to have more beta-amyloid and tau protein tangles—key features of Alzheimer’s—in their brain. That’s why I always recommend getting seven to nine hours of shuteye, each and every night. (If you struggle with insomnia or poor sleep in general, I urge you to check out my Perfect Sleep Protocol.)
A whole-body effort
Now, if these recommendations seems simple, that’s because they are. But here’s the bottom line: There is no one way to avoid or prevent dementia. Rather, it has to be a coordinated, whole-body effort.
Your brain is an organ. And if you want it to stay healthy, all the same rules apply: stay active (physically and mentally), eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke, drink in moderation, and keep your weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure in check. To learn more, check out my comprehensive online learning tool, my Alzheimer’s Prevention and Treatment Plan.
“Twelve Risk Factors Linked to 40% of World’s Dementia Cases.” Medscape Medical News, 08/03/2020. (medscape.com/viewarticle/935013)