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Avoid bingeing boxsets, write with your wrong hand and floss your teeth… 25 easy, everyday ways to prevent dementia

By JOSH SAUNDERS and CLARE O’REILLY

SMALL adjustments in your lifestyle could ward off problems in later life.

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Consumption habits earlier in life have a huge part to play in our long-term health and affect our chances of getting dementia[/caption]

Experts revealed yesterday that just one extra portion of vegetables a day in your 40s could lower the risk of dementia.

A study found the consumption habits of the middle-aged were the strongest predictor of the likelihood of developing the memory-robbing disease in later life. 

Those with diets high in plant-food groups, including leafy greens, beans, whole fruits and whole grains, were considered “most protective”. 

It found that small changes, such as adding one more helping of veg per day to your diet, could reduce the risk of scoring poorly in brain  function tests by four per cent. 

Dr Kelly Cara, who worked on the US study, said: “Improvements to dietary patterns up to midlife may influence cognitive performance and help mitigate, or lessen, cognitive decline in later years.” 

But eating more of the green stuff isn’t the only way to reduce your risk.

Here we reveal some of the easy hacks to health . . . 

CHOCOLATE:  Eating six squares of 70 per cent dark chocolate can increase memory by ten per cent, a study from Harvard University found. 

That is  because it contains flavanols — antioxidants which  neutralise harmful molecules called free radicals, which damage cells and lead to  Alzheimer’s. 

A 500mg dose of flavanols can also be found in one mug of tea or a couple of servings of berries and apples.


FLOSS: Maintaining good oral hygiene doesn’t just make you more pleasant to be around, it can also help your brain’s health. 

It is  believed gum disease increases the risk of a range of conditions including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, pancreatic cancer and diabetes.

A 2021 study from New York University found adults with tooth loss were 1.48 times more likely to suffer cognitive decline and had a 1.28 times higher risk of dementia.

The scientists recommended brushing your teeth two times a day for two minutes, flossing, and visiting a dentist every six months. 

LAUGH DAILY: Whether it’s telling jokes, watching a comedy or chuckling along at memes online, all of these things can help your brain.

The act of laughing combats low mood and depression, which are risk factors for dementia, by releasing feelgood brain chemicals including serotonin and dopamine. 

Dr Tom MacLaren, a consultant psychiatrist at specialist brain clinic Re:Cognition Health, in London, said: “Research shows laughing regularly can help to reduce your risk of developing dementia.”

SLEEP IT OFF: Getting seven to eight hours’ sleep per night is essential for cutting down the risk in middle age. 

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Getting between seven and eight hours of sleep a night will keep dementia at bay[/caption]

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Strawberries are great for our brain health as they contain flavanols[/caption]

A 2021 study published in the ­journal  ­Nature Communications found those who got less than six hours of kip were around 30 per cent more likely to develop dementia. 

That is because poor quality sleep prevents the body from being able to clear out toxins, including beta-amyloid protein, which is linked to Alzheimer’s. 

Cutting out daytime naps and reducing caffeine intake will help promote better quality sleep.

CHECK CHOLESTEROL: Having high cholesterol is associated with an increased risk of dementia — so keep on top of yours with regular checks at your GP.

You may be prescribed medication or urged to make vital lifestyle changes to help, including losing weight and cutting down alcohol  consumption.

USE ESSENTIAL OILS: Putting just a ­couple of drops of essential oils, like lavender, on your pillow helps too.

Participants in a 2023 University of California study who were exposed to the scent for two hours over a six-month period saw a 226 per cent improvement in their memory.

SCOFF STRAWBERRIES: The Wimbledon favourite is not just delicious, it also contains the compound pelargonidin, which prevents neurofibrillary tau tangles in the brain.

These protein build-ups, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, are reduced by the anti-inflammatory effects of eating strawberries, acc­ording to a 2022 study from Rush ­University in Chicago. 

AVOID BINGEING BOXSETS: There is nothing better than blitzing through episodes of your favourite show — but don’t do it for too long. 

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Keep your brain active by doing crosswords[/caption]

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Spending time with others and being outdoors are great ways to lower risk of dementia[/caption]

A 2018 study from biomedical database UK Biobank found people who watched more than four hours at a time were 24 per cent more likely to develop dementia, due to it being a “passive activity”.

Instead, they recommended spending an hour surfing the web, due to it being a “higher cognitive task”.

GET OUTSIDE: Catching the sun’s rays for just nine minutes a day will top up your vitamin D levels. 

A 2019 study found those who were deficient in the “sunshine vitamin” were 30 per cent more likely to develop dementia, due to their bodies being less able to clear amyloid  plaques from the brain.

CROSSWORDS: Literacy-based activities like doing a crossword can help reduce your chance of dementia by up to nine per cent.

A team from Monash University, in Australia, said the words-based pastime, puzzles and card games help by “stimulating the growth of neurons and synapses”. 

SWITCH IT UP: It may seem odd, but carrying out tasks like writing with your non-dominant hand could help too.

Neuroscientist Dr Rahul Jandial says it helps by “building brain connections”, which keeps you sharp.

CUDDLE PETS: Spending time with a furry friend can reduce  loneliness and depression.

Those negative ­feelings are linked to developing dementia according to doctors. 

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Laughing every day goes a long way to keeping your brain healthy[/caption]

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Quitting smoking is one of the best ways you can prevent onset of the memory-robbing disease[/caption]

GO BACK TO SCHOOL: Studies have shown the more years of education someone has, the lower the dementia risk.

We make new cells and connections by learning. 

Dementia affects us by blocking and destroying the brain’s nerve cells and the connections between them. 

If we can increase the number of nerve cells and new connections, if one route gets blocked by dementia our brain has others to use. 

BE A SOCIAL BUTTERFLY: Loneliness, depression, isolation and a lack of purpose all increase the chances of dementia. 

Research from University College London found meeting new people, and increasing time spent socialising can help delay the onset of the condition, reducing risk by between 30 and 50 per cent.

LEARN NEW SKILLS: People who spend more time learning something new tend to develop more robust networks of connections and nerve cells in their brains.

So they are better equipped to handle any cell damage that can lead to dementia.

STOP SMOKING: Quitting smoking is one of the most significant steps you can take in boosting brain health.

Smoking is linked to multiple medical conditions including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

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Flossing and visiting a dentist every 6 months helps prevent gum disease – which is known to increase the chances of getting dementia[/caption]

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Furry friends can help reduce depression and loneliness[/caption]

Getting help from your local stop smoking service can greatly boost your chances of giving up.

The NHS Smokefree National Helpline is free to call on 0300 123 1044, or talk to your doctor for advice.

Find more online at nhs.uk.

LOWER YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE:  Managing high blood pressure around your 30s and 40s may reduce the risk of dementia, research shows.

You can have your blood pressure checked at your doctor’s surgery or  some pharmacies.

It is important to have yours checked every five years if you are over 40.

TURN DOWN THE VOLUME: Experts have found a link between hearing loss and a raised risk of dementia. 

In fact, people with middle-age hearing loss can be up to five times more likely to develop it. 

Consistent exposure to excessive loud noise, for example, from music or concerts can lead to damage of the inner ear.

This then affects the neural pathways that lead into the brain, which results in an increased risk of dementia. 

Look after your hearing and turn down the volume on your AirPods.

AVOID CONTACT SPORTS: These can contribute to the risk of developing dementia, according to ongoing research globally.

Studies have found a direct link between repeated head trauma and brain damage which can lead to dementia. 

GO OUT WITH MATES: According to the Office for National Statistics, around one in seven people aged between 45 and 54 is affected by loneliness.

While several studies have found a link between feelings of being lonely and mortality, research has also found social interactions have protective effects on the brain. 

KEEP CONNECTED: Social isolation is linked to an increased risk of dementia, studies have found. 

So keeping connected to the people around you is a great way to give back to your brain. 

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If you are overweight or obese, losing between five and ten per cent of your excess weight will help prevent dementia[/caption]

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Join an exercise class to reduce risk by 28 per cent[/caption]

A report by the University of New South Wales in  Sydney suggested  volunteering, joining a rotary club, living with others and making phone calls were beneficial.

JOIN AN EXERCISE CLASS: Group exercise can reduce the risk of developing dementia by 28 per cent. 

To get the biggest benefits, the Alzheimer’s Society recommended exercising several times a week, for 30 minutes on each occasion.

It suggests doing both aerobic and strength-building activities.

OPT FOR A MEDITERRANEAN DIET: High salt consumption has been linked to both heart disease and dementia. 

Up to 75 per cent of the salt we consume ­is found in processed food and items eaten away from the home.

The Alzheimer’s Society recommends sticking to a Mediterranean diet, which could reduce dementia risk by 23 per cent.

 It consists of high consumption of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, moderate intake of oily fish and dairy, and low intake of meat, sugar and saturated fats. 

LOSE WEIGHT: Being overweight between the ages of 35 and 65 has been found to increase the risk of dementia by up to 30 per cent. 

If you are considered overweight or obese, losing between five and ten per cent of your excess weight can reduce your risk.

Visit the NHS  website for weight loss plans or talk to your GP for advice.

TREAT MENTAL-HEALTH CONDITIONS: Depression has been found to double the risk of dementia in later life.

Both affect the same areas of the brain and reduce the ability to send messages between nerve cells. 

Treating mental health conditions can keep physical and mental health in check.

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