New research shows a healthy lifestyle could lower your risk of getting dementia, even if you have a higher genetic risk.

Lauren Wicks
July 16, 2019

Photo: Boonchai Wedmakawand/Getty

It can be heart-breaking to watch a loved one start to show warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer's, and unfortunately, degenerative brain disease and dementia are on the rise in our country. The number of cases is expected to more than double in the next 30 years. The good news is, more research is being conducted than ever before to help prevent and treat these devastating brain conditions.

New research from the University of Exeter found that our risk for developing dementia may come down to more than just our genetics. A new study, published in JAMA, identified several lifestyle factors that could greatly influence one's chance of developing a degenerative brain condition.

After studying almost 200,000 adults ages 60 and older, researchers discovered those who practiced healthy lifestyle behaviors-followed a healthy diet, didn't smoke, drank alcohol in moderation (or less) and engaged in regular physical activity were less likely to develop dementia than those who smoke, drank in excess, didn't exercise regular and followed an unhealthy diet. 1.8% of people who had a high genetic risk and poor lifestyle habits developed dementia, compared to 1.1% of people with a high risk but healthy habits.

Related: MIND Diet: Best Foods to Eat to Keep Your Brain Young

So, what exactly does this preventative lifestyle entail? Here are 3 healthy habits to adopt now to keep your mind (and body) healthy.

1. Exercise

Regular physical activity was defined meeting the American Heart Association recommendations of at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week-or a combination of the two. It could also be defined as engaging in moderate physical activity at least 5 days a week or vigorous activity once a week. Sounds like a lot, but it's just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Try going for a walk at lunchtime or break up those 30 minutes into 10 minute bursts.

2. Healthy Diet

A healthy diet was equivalent to consuming at least four out of these seven healthy food groups-fruits, nuts and seeds, vegetables, whole grains, fish and shellfish, dairy products and vegetable oils. The authors of the study say these foods are linked to better late-life cognition and reduced dementia risk.

Related: Your Anti-Aging Diet

3. Alcohol Consumption

The authors of the study noted cutting out alcohol wouldn't necessarily lower you risk more than just drinking in moderation. As long as women drank no more than one drink per day and men no more than two, one could still reap the preventative health benefits. One drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of regular beer (5% ABV), five ounces of wine (12% ABV) or 1.5 fluid ounces of 80 proof spirits (40% ABV).

Related: Is Drinking Alcohol Bad for My Health?

The Bottom Line

These lifestyle behaviors mentioned above not only show to be promising in promoting better brain health-they have shown to be extremely beneficial for many other aspects of our health as well. From protecting our hearts to preventing cancer to helping us lose a little weight, we can all benefit from implementing these healthy behaviors in our lives for dozens of reasons.

Related: 1-Day Healthy Memory-Boosting Meal Plan

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