There is no vaccine against dementia. Yet lifestyle and other factors play a role in the risk of developing a disease that may cause dementia.
Healthy lifestyle choices regarding diet, nutrition, exercise, intellectual, and social activity may help reduce the risk of developing dementia and other cognitive disorders. However, there is no guarantee that these prevention measures will work for every person.
It is not possible to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. A wide range of modifiable factors (e.g. nutritional supplements, herbal preparations, dietary factors, drugs, social and economic factors, etc.) have been studied, but none of these risk factors has been scientifically confirmed.
Research suggests that adopting a "brain-healthy" diet can reduce the risk of developing dementia. Focus on a diet which is low in cholesterol, saturated fat, sugar, and salt, and high in dietary fibres, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, other complex carbohydrates, potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
Supplements like Vitamins B-12, C, E, and folate may also help maintain a healthy brain. Of course, it is better to obtain these nutrients directly from food, if possible.
When it comes to brain health, starting and maintaining a regular exercise program is often the most difficult lifestyle change to implement. But physical activity doesn't have to be overly strenuous or involve a huge time commitment to generate benefits. The most important thing is that it is done on a regular basis (e.g. 30 minutes a day can be sufficient for a preventive effect).
Cardiovascular exercise (exercise that strengthens the pumping force of your heart, such as swimming, walking, running, and cycling) and resistance training (exercise that strengthens muscles, such as weight lifting and sit-ups) are the best types of exercise for health. Some types of exercise (e.g., swimming and cross-country skiing) provide both cardiovascular and resistance training benefits.
Exercise is beneficial because it increases the blood flow to the brain and reduces the risk of cardiovascular conditions that are associated with vascular dementia. Regular physical exercise also helps maintain the hormonal balance and stimulates the release of chemicals required for brain cell survival. Thus, it can delay the onset of dementia.
Mental exercise has been associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease. Keeping the brain active increases and strengthens connections between brain cells and builds up "cognitive reserve". Brain cells may die as we age, but research shows that mental and social activities promote new connections between cells. The new connections that are cultivated between brain cells create a buffer which can compensate for a loss of cognitive functioning if dementia sets in. This buffer seems to allow people with higher cognitive reserve to avoid showing symptoms of cognitive decline for a longer period of time than individuals with little cognitive reserve.
To stay mentally active, it is important to commit to the idea of lifelong learning. The key is to add novelty to your experiences by learning and doing new things (rather than just repeating old activities). Variety and newness keep the mind sharp and promote a healthy brain.
Elements such as active involvement with family and a wide network of friends are likely to lower your risk of dementia. Socialising lessens depression that can result from isolation. Social interaction is also good for the brain because it stimulates connections between brain cells. Research suggests that social activities which combine physical and mental activity are most effective preventing dementia. For instance, walking with a friend while talking about a topic that requires problem solving is better than just walking, just visiting a friend, or just problem solving. Good ways to stay socially active include being involved in work or volunteer activities, joining clubs, and/or participating in organised travels.