I have a family history of dementia. Is there anything I can do to help prevent it?
Surprisingly, yes. Genes can increase your risk of many types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, but you can work to lower your chances.
There are an astounding 400 miles of capillaries in your brain. And just as keeping blood vessels strong and flexible helps prevent cardiovascular disease, maintaining the health of the vessels that feed your brain can lower your risk of dementia.
So following a diet low in saturated fat that includes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables (for the antioxidants) and fatty fish (for the omega-3s) is good because heart risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes also age your brain. Exercise gets your heart rate up, and it also stimulates chemicals that help neurons thrive.
On top of that, it’s important to stay active socially and mentally. Social connectedness has been associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment— so see your girlfriends or start a couples’ game night. Learning a new language or regularly doing crossword puzzles may keep your brain nimble, too.
RELATED: 17 Ways to Age-Proof Your Brain
Health‘s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.