15 Ways to Improve Brain Health & Reduce Risk for Dementia
The Best 15 Ways to reduce your risk for dementia and optimize mental health and brain health in older adulthood.
Top 15 ways to reduce dementia risk and optimize mental health
- Engage in physical activity
- Maintain cardiovascular health
- Engage in enjoyable cognitively stimulating activities
- Participate in your social life
- Avoid excessive alcohol or other harmful substances
- Avoid smoking and other environmental toxins
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night (consistently)
- Eat a nutritious diet (note: if there are any evidence-based supplements, I’ll include them here)
- Think positively about aging (reduce ageism)
- Find meaning and purpose in life
- Engage in enjoyable activities – hobbies, spending time in nature
- Avoid medications contraindicated for older adults
- Practice mindfulness and meditation
- Manage chronic stress (practice gratitude, participate in enjoyable activities, take breaks, etc)
- Get treatment for mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression
Find a Mental Health Professional
What is a Therapist?
Therapist is a broad term to identify licensed professionals trained to provide talk-therapy to treat or manage mental health conditions. Professions such as psychology, social work, licensed professional counselors, and licensed marriage and family therapists commonly provide talk-therapy. These professionals may even have specialty in older adults. For example: Geriatric Social Worker or Gero-Psychologist who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues that occur more commonly in older adults, such as dementia, depression, insomnia, caregiving, older family needs, etc. in concert with medical problems. Find a therapist who specializes with older adults here.
What is a Psychiatrist/Gero-Psychiatrist?
Geriatric psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health issues that occur more commonly in older adults, such as dementia, depression, insomnia, etc. in concert with medical problems and multiple medications. Find a psychiatrist who specializes with older adults here.
What is a Neuropsychologist?
A neuropsychologist is a psychologist with advanced specialty in understanding the relationship between the brain and behavior. They help to diagnose brain disorders, like dementia (specifically what type of dementia a person has) and help to determine a person’s ability to learn, accomplish tasks. Neuropsychologists and neurologists (a physician who specializes in the brain) often consult with one another for diagnosing dementia or other brain disorders. Find a Neuropsychologist who specializes with older adults here.
Resources & References
- Want to quit smoking? Check out the American Lung Associations Quit smoking programs
- Physical Activity and Brain Health – Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH)
- Brain Food: GCBH Recommendations on Nourishing Your Brain Health
- The Brain and Social Connectedness: GCBH Recommendations on Social Engagement and Brain Health
- The Brain–Sleep Connection: GCBH Recommendations on Sleep and Brain Health
- Brain Health and Mental Well-Being: GCBH Recommendations on Feeling Good and Functioning Well
- Engage Your Brain: GCBH Recommendations on Cognitively Stimulating Activities
- The Beers List 2015
- “The XX Brain” by Lisa Mosconi, PhD
- Learn more about the toll of ageism on physical and mental health
- Levy BR, Slade MD, Pietrzak RH, Ferrucci L. Positive age beliefs protect against dementia even among elders with high-risk gene. PLoS One. 2018 Feb 7;13(2):e0191004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0191004. PMID: 29414991; PMCID: PMC5802444.
- Levy BR, Zonderman A, Slade MD, Ferrucci L. (2009) Negative age stereotypes held earlier in life predict cardiovascular events in later life. Psychological Science, 20:296–298
- Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Chang, E. S., Kannoth, S., & Wang, S. Y. (2020). Ageism amplifies cost and prevalence of health conditions. The Gerontologist, 60(1), 174-181.https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gny131
- Levy, B. R., Slade, M. D., Kunkel, S. R., & Kasl, S. V. (2002). Longevity increased by positive self-perceptions of aging. Journal of personality and social psychology, 83(2), 261–270. https://doi.org/10.1037//0022-35184.108.40.2061
- Levy, B. R., Ferrucci, L., Zonderman, A. B., Slade, M. D., Troncoso, J., & Resnick, S. M. (2016). A culture–brain link: Negative age stereotypes predict Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers. Psychology & Aging, 31(1), 82-88. https://doi.org/10.1037/pag0000062
- Stress and dementia: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/blog/there-link-between-stress-and-dementia-risk