But many of us take our brains for granted.

Just as we can protect other areas of our health, we can take steps to keep our brains healthy and reduce our risk of developing dementia later in life.

You can keep your brain in shape, just like you can with your body. Research shows that looking after your heart, regularly challenging your brain, and keeping connected socially can help reduce the risk of dementia later in life too.

Love your heart

Want to give your brain some love? One of the most important things you can do is be kind to your heart.

We know how important things like being physically active, eating healthily, and not smoking are for our hearts. But fewer people realize that doing the very same things can help keep our brains ticking over.

Like most things in life, it’s about making choices that work for you. For example, being physically active doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym. It could be dancing in the kitchen or a brisk walk instead of taking the bus.

Stay sharp

Regularly challenging your brain and taking time for your mental well-being can help protect it as you age.

A large study of people over 65 in China showed that those who more regularly read books and newspapers, and played board games or card games had a lower risk of dementia.

Researchers think mental activity helps to build a person’s ‘cognitive reserve’. This is a kind of resilience that protects the brain, enabling it to rewire itself by forming new connections between cells when old ones are damaged.

In short, having a high level of cognitive reserve helps the brain to cope and keep working, even in the face of damage from diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Keep connected

Research suggests that social isolation and loneliness are linked to an increased risk of dementia – so keeping connected to the people around us is another good way to give back to your brain.

A major study in 2020 suggested that social isolation in later life could be a factor in around 4% of dementia cases. More recently, researchers from China and the UK have built on this study, finding that social isolation is linked to lower brain volume in parts of the brain associated with learning and thinking, as well as an increased risk of dementia.

Keeping connected is not only good for our brain health. It can help us feel happier and healthier in general, by spending time with loved ones, having virtual catch-ups with friends further afield, and making new connections by joining clubs or volunteering.

Several studies have suggested a link between hearing loss and dementia risk too. Researchers are now working to get to the bottom of whether hearing loss is a risk factor in itself, or if it could increase a person’s risk of dementia by making it harder for them to stay connected to the people and the world around them.

For more information contact Grupo HPA Saude at +351 282 420 400