- Researchers say that staying physically and mentally active can help reduce the risk of dementia.
- They say these activities can include exercise, household chores, and social visits with friends and family.
- Experts say it’s also important to eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep and participate in mindful activities such as yoga.
Exercising, doing household chores and visiting friends and family are all ways to reduce the risk of dementia by up to 35%.
It’s according to a new study published in the journal Neurology which involved more than 500,000 people.
The participants had an average age of 56 years. None of them had been diagnosed with dementia.
Participants reported their level of physical activity at the start of the study. They also documented additional activities such as how they traveled to work or hobbies, their use of electronic devices, and personal information including education level.
The researchers then followed for more than 10 years on average. They said they found a link between certain activities and a reduced risk of dementia.
The researchers said that people who frequently participated in specific activities had a much lower risk of developing dementia than people who did not participate frequently.
- Vigorous exercise was associated with a 35% lower risk of developing dementia.
- Household chores created a 21% lower risk.
- Daily visits with people (friends or family) produced a 15% lower risk.
Where you spent time with others and what you did while socializing also mattered in the study. For example, visiting a bar or social club and watching television did not reduce risk as much as other activities.
Genetic risk factors for the development of dementia as well as family history of the disease were taken into consideration.
At the end of the follow-up period, more than 5,000 participants developed dementia. Those most likely to develop dementia in the study were older, male, with a history of hypertension or hyperlipidemia, and with lower socioeconomic status and higher body mass index.
“More research is needed to confirm our findings. However, our results are encouraging and show that these simple lifestyle changes can be beneficial,” Dr Huan Songstudy author and research professor at Sichuan University in China, said in a statement.
However, he said, “we just don’t know the causal relationship or relationships.”
“It may be that people at lower risk of dementia are able to engage in these activities rather than the other way around,” Plude explained.
Dr. Anisha Patel-DunnDO, a psychiatrist and chief medical officer of LifeStance Health, told Healthline that these study results echo what has long been known in the mental health community: to prioritize self-care and a mentally healthy routine benefits your overall health.
“Mental health is no different from physical health and that includes incorporating healthy habits as a means of [dementia] prevention,” she said.
“The basics of self-care such as sticking to a routine, exercising regularly, and connecting with friends and family in person or over the phone are all incredibly supportive of overall mental well-being, and this study further illustrates that these simple habits can have extremely positive long-term benefits,” Patel-Dunn said.
Patel-Dunn suggests finding activities that you really enjoy doing because that’s more likely to create lasting habits.
These activities may be different for each person, she says, but here are some suggestions:
Maintain a set sleep schedule
Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and practice good sleep hygiene (i.e. avoid screens before bed).
“I would suggest reading, listening to relaxing music, or doing a meditation before bed to replace screen time,” Patel-Dunn said.
Organize your home environment
Keeping your surroundings organized and clean can be soothing and allow you to concentrate more effectively if you’re working or taking a class from home.
“Pairing chores with your favorite podcast or audiobook can help it become something you look forward to,” Patel-Dunn suggested.
Move your body daily
Making sure you schedule time to move your body every day is a healthy coping technique for dealing with stress.
“I would prioritize a short walk outside whenever possible, as the connection to nature can also be extremely grounded,” Patel-Dunn said.
“While these are all relatively simple techniques to rely on to promote mental well-being, the truth is that they can produce wonderful results when practiced consistently,” she added. . “It’s really the basics that are so essential to building a healthy foundation for our mental and physical well-being.”
The National Institute on Aging offers these supplements
- Eat healthy foods (such as foods rich in nutrients that support healthy brain function).
- Manage stress with mindfulness activities like yoga or journaling.
- Keep learning new things (take a class or join a club, for example).
- Maintain frequent medical check-ups.
Prude says current advice on reducing Alzheimer’s risk comes largely from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report 2017 this suggests three promising areas where further research is needed: increasing physical activity, blood pressure control, and cognitive training.