A recent study claims that forms of dementia like Alzheimer’s disease are not an inevitable part of the aging process. In fact, the researchers claim that more than one in three dementia cases might be preventable through nine lifestyle changes in different phases of your life.

There are currently more than five million Americans living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to increase to as high as 16 million by 2050.

But studies suggest that certain behaviors can help cut the risk of nearly 35 percent of dementia cases. Below are five things you can do to help cut your risk, and why they’re beneficial.

1. Have Your Hearing Checked. Hearing loss is increasingly recognized as a risk factor for dementia – research has shown that even mild levels of hearing loss increase the long-term risk of cognitive decline.

2. Stay Active. Older adults who exercise are more likely to maintain cognition than those who do not. Physical exercise also leads to benefits like improving balance and reducing falls and improving mood and function.

3. Avoid Smoking. Cigarette smoke contains neurotoxins, which heighten the risk of dementia.

4. Increase Social Contact. The evidence is growing that social isolation is a risk factor for dementia and it increases the risk of hypertension, coronary heart disease, and depression. Isolation has also been linked to faster cognitive decline and low mood.

5. Consider Lifestyle Changes. Although there isn’t a concrete link between diet and dementia, individuals who adhere to a Mediterranean diet (low intake of meat and dairy, high intake of fruit, vegetables, and fish) have fewer vascular risk factors and increased life expectancy.

Dementia isn’t inevitable – staying engaged on a physical, social and emotional level can help delay or even sharply reduce your risk.

If you’re caring for a loved one living with dementia, you aren’t alone. To learn about resources that can help, give us a call at 208.238.0088.