Dementia guide

Can dementia be prevented?

There is no certain way to prevent all types of dementia.

However, a healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk of developing dementia when you are older. It can also prevent cardiovascular diseases, such as strokes and heart attacks.

To reduce your risk of developing dementia and other serious health conditions it is recommended that you:

  • eat a healthy diet
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • exercise regularly
  • do not drink too much alcohol
  • stop smoking (if you smoke)
  • make sure you keep your blood pressure at a healthy level

How a healthy lifestyle could help prevent dementia

Mind and body

There is some evidence to suggest that the rates of dementia are lower in people who remain as mentally and physically active as possible throughout their lives.

Leading a healthy lifestyle is key to lowering your risk of developing dementia and other serious health conditions.

If you have diabetes, make sure you follow the dietary advice that is recommended by your care team and take any medication that you are prescribed.

The Live Well section of NHS Choices has a range of healthy lifestyle and wellbeing information and advice for people of all ages.

Diet and dementia

To eat healthily, a low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (5 A DAY) and wholegrains.

Limit the amount of salt in your diet to no more than six grams a day. Too much salt will increase your blood pressure, which puts you at risk of developing dementia. One teaspoonful of salt is about six grams.

Avoid eating foods that are high in saturated fat as this increases your cholesterol levels, which also puts you at risk of developing dementia.

Read more about eating healthily.

How weight affects dementia risk

Being overweight can increase your blood pressure, which increases your risk of getting dementia. The risk is higher if you are obese. The most scientific way to measure your weight is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). This is your weight in kilograms divided by your height in metres, squared. You can also calculate your BMI using the BMI healthy weight calculator.

In the UK, people with a BMI of 25-30 are overweight, and those with a BMI above 30 are obese. People with a BMI of 40 or more are morbidly obese.

The best way of tackling obesity is to reduce the number of calories you eat and take regular exercise (see below). Your GP will be able to give you further information and advice about how you can do this.

Read more about losing weight.

Exercise to reduce dementia risk

Exercising regularly will make your heart and blood circulatory system more efficient. It will also help to lower your cholesterol and keep your blood pressure at a healthy level, decreasing your risk of developing dementia.

For most people, a minimum of 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, such as cycling or fast walking, is recommended.

Read more about exercising regularly.

Alcohol and dementia

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol will cause your blood pressure to rise as well as raising the level of cholesterol in your blood.

Stick to the recommended limits for alcohol consumption to reduce your risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and dementia.

The recommended daily limit for alcohol consumption is three to four units of alcohol a day for men, and two to three units a day for women. A unit of alcohol is equal to about half a pint of normal-strength lager, a small glass of wine or a pub measure (25ml) of spirits.

Read more about drinking and alcohol.

Stopping smoking could reduce dementia risk

Smoking can cause your arteries to narrow which can lead to a rise in your blood pressure. It also increases your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, cancer and dementia.

The NHS Smoking Helpline offers advice and encouragement to help you stop smoking. You can call on 0800 022 4332 or visit NHS Smokefree.

Your GP or pharmacist will also be able to give you help and advice about giving up smoking.

Read more about stopping smoking.

Page last reviewed: 21/08/2012

Next review due: 21/08/2014

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Living with dementia

Advice, help and support for anyone newly diagnosed with dementia, worried they have early signs of dementia, or caring for a person with dementia.

Media last reviewed: 22/11/2013

Next review due: 22/11/2015

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