3 strategies to prevent dementia 21



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Scientists used to believe that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia were predetermined and, other than alcoholic dementia, there was nothing we could do to prevent it. We now know that this is only partially true. We no longer have to wait to be victimised by dementia. There are things we can do to minimise the risk. Many of these are simple, and we can be proactive in instituting these strategies. Many doctors in the field recognise that each person has an important role to play in their mental health.

Here are three things that you can do immediately.



The longest study ever done relating to dementia was by the University of Cardiff in which over 2000 men were followed for 35 years. What they found was that the most significant influence on reducing dementia was exercise; either walking 3 kilometres a day or cycling 16 kilometres a day. These are not excessive numbers; most people can do this. Other influences such as diet and alcohol reduction were factors, but exercise came out on top.

This makes sense because dementia occurs when the health of the brain tissues deteriorate whether due to plaques that occur in the blood vessels or due to damage of nerve cells in the brain. We know that children who exercise score better on school exams. The stagnation of the sedentary lifestyle today that so many lead is a detriment to brain health.

Unless we are in a wheelchair, we can all walk. The secret is to walk vigorously. Push the body a little bit more; it is not only good for your brain, but it will also enhance your physical fitness.



Travel is an activity that has a positive impact on brain health. It stirs up neuroplastic changes in the brain – neuroplasticity being the process whereby new nerve connections generate within the brain. When we travel, we also do much walking, and that is a bonus.

Perhaps the main reason travel is so important to brain health is that it takes us out of our normal environment, and we have to process new information. Experiencing different countries and cultures is a learning experience. Visiting the great museums, art galleries and cathedrals of the world provides us with new information and we get to appreciate the richness of humanity. We also learn about the not so pleasant aspects of humanity. For instance, when we were in the Italian city of Trieste, we were surprised to find that there had been a concentration camp in the city during World War II. Most people are unaware of that fact. Today it is a museum that has restored the site for the historical record. It was a true learning experience.


Setting goals

We humans are geared towards goal-setting. Our brains are wired this way and for each new goal that set, we create new sets of nerves that fire together. Setting new and different goals keeps our brains stimulated, and it creates a sense of purpose and achievement.

When we set goals, we trigger our brains to fire neurons in a new way that causes the brain to change. We may set goals such as learning Italian, so we become fluent in three years to converse on a trip to Italy. We might set a goal of cycling 200 kilometres a week in a year’s time, or we may have a goal of creating a viable new business within two years. All these goals need to be set with time limits so that it creates some sense of urgency. Some goals may be more subtle, but no less important such as mentoring a certain number of teenagers within a given time span.

All these goals lead us to a purpose-driven life. Patrick Hill of Carleton University in Canada found in a 14-year study that having a purpose was a predictor of a longer life. Another study indicated that having a life purpose resulted in a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.

The bottom line is if you do not have a purpose, look for one and set goals to achieve it.


Share your thoughts below.

Dr Ely Lazar and Dr Adele Thomas

  1. In recent years there has been more and more research into the benefits of exercise (for all age groups) and the results have been turning many older recommendations on their head. For example “sitting is the new smoking” so for many of today’s lifestyle diseases it is the old adage of “use it or lose it”. The new research coming out for Dementia and Alzheimer’s is also finding great results from participating in a regular exercise program. As mentioned in the article, doing something that gets the blood pumping at a faster rate than normal (say 55 to 60% of your maximum heart rate) for at least 30 minutes a day will have fresh blood pulsing through and feeding your brain (and heart) thus minimizing your risk of lifestyle diseases. Doing crosswords etc (and the new craze of colouring books for adults) are great but we need to be doing more.

  2. I thought science had pretty much proven that Alzheimmers cannot be prevented or cured?

    3 REPLY
  3. Nice to know Ive been doing the right thing with travelling then just got back from Vancouver. Seems I need to plan another holiday lol

  4. A goal of cycling 200 kilometres a week ? In what universe? I am 63 years old and i go to the gym 3 times a week and i thought that was good lol.

  5. Valerie D McCrae I believe your right my sister had a great education, loved her work kept doing new courses very healthy eater walked every day and got Alzheimer’s at 47 48 increased her level of fitness and when on medical trials but it just progresses on its normal course nothing effected it, not even prayer.

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    • Christina prayer may not heal, but it gives one the comfort, peace and solace to face all impediments in the way gracefully!

  6. Alzeimers is not prevented by anything you do it is a virus that attacks the brain.Its like saying if you do crossword puzzles you wont get cancer.

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    • Wonderful to find out that I can smoke with the comfort I will not get cancer as i do crosswords. Happy Belated Birthday Valerie!

  7. Sometimes you can tick all the boxes and it happens anyway. One tragic example is the wonderful Hazel Hawke, who sadly died from it some time back. She was an outstanding example to us all – yet Alzheimer Disease still claimed her. 🙁

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