Lifestyle changes can help prevent dementia

No matter how old you are, there are strategies that you can start right now to improve your chances of preventing dementia.

Increasing physical activity, challenging your mind, and choosing colorful foods can help prevent or at least delay dementia, according to experts quoted in a July 28, 2021, Elemental article.

“The underlying process related to cognitive decline starts in early adult life, and probably even earlier,” said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Thus I don’t think we can start too soon.”

Eating foods with flavonoids can help keep the mind sharp, according to research. High-flavonoid foods include apples, blackberries, blueberries, celery, cherries, grapefruit, oranges, pears, peppers, and strawberries. A July 28 study co-authored by Willett found that the strongest protective effect came from yellow and orange fruits and vegetables.

“There is mounting evidence suggesting flavonoids are powerhouses when it comes to preventing your thinking skills from declining as you get older,” said Willett. “Our results are exciting because they show that making simple changes to your diet could help prevent cognitive decline.”

Another co-author of the study, Deborah Blacker, professor in the Department of Epidemiology, said in an August 9, 2021, New York Times article that it’s important to think about ways to incorporate foods with flavonoids into your diet. She said, “Think about: How do I find fresh produce and cook it in a way that’s appetizing? That’s part of the message here.”

Other experts quoted in the Elemental article noted that physical activity such as brisk walking, and activities that are mentally challenging—such as doing puzzles or playing card games—can also help promote good cognitive functioning.

Other Harvard Chan School researchers on the study included Tian-Shin YehChangzheng YuanAlberto Ascherio, and Bernard Rosner.

Read the Elemental article: Dementia Starts Sooner Than You Think

Read the New York Times article: Can Fruits and Vegetables Boost Brain Health?

Read a Verywell Fit article: Eating These Foods May Reduce Risk of Cognitive Decline

Read a BBC article: Why eating colourful food is good for you

This article was updated on December 13, 2021.