12 actions that could reduce dementia rates by 40 percent

Part of the reason dementia is so difficult to prevent and treat is that it doesn’t have one cause. It’s caused by a lot of different things. Genetics. Diet. Exercise habits. Pollution. These and many more factors play into your risk of developing this devastating disease.

Luckily, new research published in the journal The Lancet breaks down the causes of dementia pretty darn specifically…

This research found that head injuries in midlife are associated with 3 percent of all dementia cases. Excessive alcohol consumption (more than 210 ml per week) in midlife is associated with roughly 1 percent of all cases. And exposure to air pollution in later life is associated with about 2 percent of all cases (though it seems to especially target women).

The top three risk factors associated with dementia worldwide (according to this research) were honestly pretty surprising…

The risk factor associated with the most cases of dementia worldwide (8 percent) is hearing loss in midlife. The risk factor that comes in a close second is less education in early life, which is associated with 7 percent of all cases. And the risk factor that comes in third is smoking in later life, which is associated with 5 percent of all cases.

Here’s the good news. Knowledge is power. Now that researchers better understand the risk factors driving up dementia rates worldwide, they’ve assembled a list of actions we can all take to start sending dementia rates back down…

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The most important actions you can take to prevent dementia are…

A new report created by 28 world-leading dementia experts has identified the 12 most important actions we can take as individuals and as a society to prevent dementia. In fact, they estimate that if we all got to work on these 12 changes ASAP, we could reduce Alzheimer’s rates by a whopping 40 percent worldwide.

Here they are:

  1. Aim to maintain systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or less in midlife (starting at around 40 years old)
  2. Protect your ears from high noise levels. And if you have hearing loss, use a hearing aid.
  3. Reduce your exposure to air pollution and secondhand tobacco smoke.
  4. Protect your head from injury as much as possible (hello, helmets!).
  5. Limit drinking to less than 210 ml of alcohol per week (a bottle of wine contains about 100ml).
  6. Stop smoking.
  7. Provide children with primary and secondary education (this one’s more of a societal thing unless you’re a parent).
  8. Lead an active life in mid and later life.
  9. Do what you can to prevent obesity (healthy eating and exercise are huge here).
  10. Do what you can to prevent diabetes (healthy eating and exercise are huge here, too).
  11. Do what you can to prevent depression (healthy eating, exercise, self-care practices like meditation and seeking the help of mental health professionals are huge here).
  12. Increase your social contact.

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How many actions can you check off the list?

Honestly, most of the suggestions on this list are healthy living 101. Hopefully, you can already check a lot of them off your list, but if there are a few things that you aren’t already actively working toward, commit now to making some changes for the sake of your brain.

Protecting your hearing struck me as one change that might fall under the radar for a lot of people when it comes to reducing dementia risk. That’s because a lot of people don’t realize how strong the connection between hearing loss and dementia is…

Research shows that hearing loss is associated with as much as a 24 percent higher risk of Alzheimer’s. Scientists believe that may be because people with hearing loss have to work so hard to understand what other people are saying, which means they have fewer brain resources left to put toward other cognitive functions, or that people who can’t hear well isolate themselves socially because they’re embarrassed. And social isolation drives up their dementia risk.

Either way, if you notice a decline in the quality of your hearing, head to the ear doctor and ask about a hearing aid. It could make the difference between a healthy brain as you age or an unhealthy one.

Editor’s note: While you’re doing all the right things to protect your brain as you age, make sure you don’t make the mistake 38 million Americans do every day — by taking a drug that robs them of an essential brain nutrient! Click here to discover the truth about the Cholesterol Super-Brain!


  1. Forty percent of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed by targeting 12 risk factors throughout life — MedicalXpress.
  2. Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission — The Lancet.
  3. The Connection Between Alzheimer’s and Hearing Loss — Alzheimers.net.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.