Illinois Neurological Institute

Lower Your Dementia Risk

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent dementia, there are things you can do to keep your brain healthy to lower your chances of developing dementia as you age.

As with most types of exercise – any activity at all is better than none. But more rigorous activity tends to have more health benefits. Taking a brisk walk in the park is good. Going for a jog is better. The same principle applies to brain activities. The more mental effort a task requires, the better it is for your brain’s health.

Your brain, just like the rest of your body, benefits from proper diet, sleep and physical activity. Increased blood flow to the brain as a result of exercise, can help with memory. Sleep allows your brain to consolidate your memories so you can recall them more easily. A healthy diet helps keep your whole body functioning at its highest potential, and that includes your brain.

Things you can do to lower your chances of suffering from memory loss:

Engaging in hobbies

Hobbies that involve fun mental challenges can keep your mind active.

  • Do crossword puzzles or word searches.
  • Try Sudoku or solve math problems.
  • Play games on your computer or smart phone – there are many computer based puzzles and games (like visual-spatial puzzles) that can be fun and challenging.
    • Please note that many phone or computer games are free and the ones you pay for may not necessarily offer an additional benefit over free ones.
    • There are NO proven benefits of computer or smart phone based “brain training” tools, so beware of claims that they will boost your memory.
  • Participate in any activity that keeps you challenged while still being enjoyable – if it seems too easy or too routine, the benefit is not as great.

Learning

It’s a classic: learning leads to new memory formation and strengthening of existing connections. This list could drag on, but just know that learning any new skill or information helps – the harder it is to learn, the better.

  • Learn to play a musical instrument.
  • Take a class.
    • Join a cooking class.
    • Take an online course.
    • Learn a computer program.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Learn to draw or paint.
  • Learn a new skill like crocheting or pottery making.

Socializing

Regular social interaction helps combat depression and stress, which contribute to memory loss.

  • Participate in multi-person games, like cards, checkers, chess or board games.
  • Volunteer for a local organization.
  • Join social groups or clubs, like a book club.
  • Combine social activities with exercise.
    •  Take a dance class.
    •  Join a local gym that offers group exercise classes.
    •  Join a local jogging group.
  • Organize a weekly coffee outing or brunch with a group of friends.
  • Spend time with loved ones.

Establishing routines and staying organized

Help your brain stay organized by keeping your environment organized. Routine helps. If your keys are always placed in the same spot, you’ll always know where to put them and where to find them. Focusing on whatever you’re doing, and avoiding distractions, will also help you retain that information.

  • Put things in designated places.
  • Use a planner or calendar to record tasks, appointments and events.
  • Use a journal to help organize your day and your thoughts.
  • Focus on the activity at hand and avoid distractions.
  • Avoid multi-tasking.

Things to keep in mind

Try to avoid stress. If you feel depressed, talk to your healthcare provider. Avoid sleep deprivation and talk to your doctor if you use or need sleep aids