Cognitive functioning is the term used to describe multiple mental abilities which include thinking, learning, remembering, problem solving, decision making, and attention.
Research suggests that certain lifestyle changes and mentally stimulating activities may help protect the brain as it ages and play a crucial role in reducing the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other brain diseases that may lead to dementia.1-3
It is never too early or late in life to take action towards Alzheimer’s disease prevention.2
Starting from early childhood, brain stimulation through social, mental, and physical activities is important for enhancing the reserves which enable the brain to adapt, respond to change, and compensate for any damage that may occur in later life. High blood pressure, obesity, and unhealthy levels of fats in blood increase dementia risk when a person is exposed during midlife. By contrast, other factors such as an unhealthy diet can affect a person’s risk over the entire course of their life.2,5
Up to 40% of dementia cases might be prevented or delayed through lifestyle choice:2 The pie chart shows how much the risk of dementia can be reduced by avoiding or reducing one of the 12 risk factors throughout life.
Percentage [%] reduction in dementia prevalence if this risk factor is eliminated
40% Potentially modifiable risk factors
60% Other risk factors
Adapted from Livingston G, et al. 2020
Our brain is strongly linked to the rest of our body. Lifestyle changes that are beneficial for our body can also have a positive impact on our brain. These actions may help preserve brain health and reduce the likelihood of developing AD and other types of dementia.1-3
Maintaining regular physical exercise, such as walking to the grocery store or to the office, biking, stretching, or doing yoga have a positive effect on heart, bones, mood, and immune system and are good for the brain, because they enhance learning and memory.1-3
It has been shown that at least 2.5 hours of endurance sport (moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity) per week helps improve physical fitness and preserve cognitive skills.1-3
A Mediterranean diet, particularly the consumption of fruit, vegetables and fish, is associated with decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.1-3
A healthy, balanced diet lower in saturated fats also plays a crucial role in the prevention of many conditions that increase the risk of dementia, such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension and heart diseases.1-3
Smokers are at higher risk of dementia than non-smokers. Stopping smoking is beneficial regardless of age.1-3
Heavy drinking on a regular basis can increase the risk of developing dementia. Reducing alcohol consumption or stopping it completely is beneficial for our brain.1-3
Leading an active social life and maintaining frequent interactions with friends and family are strongly connected to brain health and well-being. Research suggests that social contact is a protective factor against age-related cognitive impairment.1-3
Good quality sleep has a profound impact on overall body and on brain health, influencing energy level and mood. Studies have found that good-quality sleep may reduce the build-up of amyloid plaques in the brain, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline.1-3
A regular bedtime routine, abstaining from caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime, and averaging 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night may help to improve sleep.
Mental exercise is just as important as physical activity in keeping our brain healthy and fit.
Embracing new activities throughout life and continuing to learn new things, such as a language or picking up a new hobby, help strengthen our brain skills and makes brain cells more resistant to the effects of ageing.
Examples of brain exercises that may help improve memory and problem-solving skills are reading, crosswords, sudoku, chess, or electronic “brain games”.1-3
Talking with your doctor about difficulties with memory or thinking is an important first step in catching early signs of AD and differentiating them from normal ageing.1-3
Lifestyle choices, such as physical exercise, social and mental activities, cardiovascular health, adequate sleep, may help protect brain function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.1-3
An early diagnosis allows for valuable time in which patients, together with their care team, can identify resources and strategies to manage this new phase of life.