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Reduce your risk of dementia

There are things you can do to reduce your own risk of developing dementia. These include keeping active, eating healthily and exercising your mind.

There is a lot of evidence that lifestyle choices can affect our risk of developing dementia. Dementia risk is lowest in people who have healthy behaviours in mid-life (aged 40–65). No single behaviour is guaranteed to prevent dementia, and some are more easy to change than others.

Take physical exercise

Doing regular physical activity is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of dementia. It’s good for your heart, circulation, weight and mental wellbeing.

There are two main types of physical activity – aerobic activity and strength-building activity. Each type will keep you fit in different ways. Doing a combination of these activities will help you to reduce your risk of dementia.

Drink less alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol increases your risk of developing dementia.

If you regularly drink alcohol, try to do so in moderation and within recommended limits. Drinking too much alcohol at one time exposes your brain to high levels of harmful chemicals.

Try to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol each week. This is equal to about one pint of beer or a small glass of wine each day. If you regularly drink much more than this, you are increasing your risk of damage to your brain and other organs, and so increasing your risk of dementia.

Don't smoke

If you smoke, you’re putting yourself at a much higher risk of developing dementia later in life.

Smoking does a lot of harm to the circulation of blood around the body, particularly the blood vessels in the brain, as well as the heart and lungs.

It’s never too late to quit smoking. The earlier you stop, the more brain damage you will avoid.

Stay mentally well and socially active

Depression is a mental health condition that affects at least one in five people in the UK. People who have had periods of depression in their life also have a higher risk of developing dementia.

Social isolation can greatly increase a person’s risk of dementia. Engaging in social activities may help to build up your brain’s ability to relieve stress and improve your mood.

Manage long-term health conditions

Certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, can increase the risk of getting dementia. An important way to manage this is by going for a health check.

Eating an unhealthy diet may also cause health problems, including obesity, which can be linked to an increased risk of dementia.

Protect your hearing

Hearing loss is related to an increased risk of developing dementia and may be an early symptom.

Managing hearing loss works best when you start doing it early on. You can avoid listening to loud noises for long periods and wear ear protection when necessary. The use of hearing aids has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia to the level of a person with normal hearing.

Protect your head

Traumatic brain injuries are caused by a blow or jolt to the head – especially when the person is knocked out unconscious. These can start a process in the brain where the substances that cause Alzheimer’s disease build up around the injured area.

Wear protective headgear in situations where there is a higher-than-normal risk of head injury – for example, riding a bike, working on a building site, horse-riding or playing cricket.

More research is needed to fully understand the amount of long-term dementia risk involved in contact sports like rugby or football. It’s important that coaching staff know how to deal with concussions and other head injuries.

Environmental risk factors

Certain forms of air pollution increase a person’s risk of dementia. It is difficult for an individual to reduce their exposure to polluted air and better environmental policies are needed to reduce air pollution.

How we support you

Get advice and information, whether you are worried about your memory, waiting for a referral or already diagnosed.

  • Call our support line to speak to a trained adviser
  • Visit our online forum to hear from people in the same situation

Get our booklet on reducing your risk of dementia

Dementia: Reducing your risk

If you prefer to read this information in print, our 60 page booklet 'Dementia: Reducing your risk' has full advice and guidance.

Get it by post for free or view the PDF to download a copy.

Real life stories

Hear from people who have gone through the experience.

Marie and Neil at Memory Walk.

Mistaking dementia for menopause: Marie’s story

Marie didn’t think she’d get dementia at 51. Now she wants to help raise awareness.

Tony standing in crowd.

Cricket helps my husband be active and social

Caroline details the impact of her husband Tony’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Nellie Suffolk

Staying active in the community after a dementia diagnosis

Retired teacher Nellie Suffolk has Alzheimer’s disease and remains as independent as she can.

Last reviewed: December 2023

Next review: December 2025