Looking after your mind and body could help ward off dementia – but what are the best ways to do this? Robert Mair reports.

In this article:

  1. Mental exercise
  2. Physical exercise
  3. Diet
  4. Supplements
  5. Alcohol
  6. Treat contributory conditions
  7. Bilingualism
  8. Socialise
  9. Take care of your brain
  10. Use memory aids

Mental exercise

Keeping the mind active is one of the best ways to ensure it stays healthy in later life. Recent research by Australian scientists has shown that staying mentally active into old age can halve the risks of developing dementia.

Word puzzles and quizzes are particularly useful in keeping the mind agile and are often a popular activity in care homes for this reason. Other useful stimulating activities include regularly visiting museums and reading a quality newspaper on a daily basis.

Physical exercise

As well as staying mentally active partaking in regular physical exercise from mid-life onwards can boost the brain. Scientists believe exercise may oxygenate the brain and encourage tissue growth in the part of the brain which controls memory.


Eating a healthy, balanced diet has been proven to help stave off dementia and several different foods provide particular benefits, including:

  • Oily fish, which are rich in Omega-3 acids
  • Flaxseeds, walnuts and soy, which are also rich in Omega-3
  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Whole grain
  • Lean meats
  • Eggs


Several supplements can help protect the brain, including antioxidants and B vitamins. Antioxidants help protect the brain from ‘free radicals’, which can damage brain cells, while Vitamin B improves the memory.


Long-term alcohol abuse can cause the onset of Korsakoff syndrome, which has similar symptoms to dementia. Nevertheless, a 9-year research programme by Dutch scientists showed that moderate alcohol consumption – 1-3 glasses every day - can decrease the chances of developing vascular dementia.

Research has found red wine to be particularly beneficial in fighting the condition as it opens up blood vessels so oxygenated blood can travel freely round the body and to the brain.

Treat contributory conditions

It has been estimated that 20% of dementias are, in some part, reversible. However, to achieve this, underlying causes must be treated. These include:

  • Severe depression
  • Malnutrition – especially if it includes a Vitamin B deficiency
  • Low thyroid levels
  • Dehydration - care homes where residents drink plenty of water are generally more active
  • Drug abuse


Learning another language is great exercise for the memory, but learning it at a young age – and speaking it for a lifetime – can delay dementia by as much as 4 years, according to Canadian scientists.


An active social life can keep the brain in working order, so even in old age you should try to have a large circle of friends who you can socialise with. This helps to keep body and mind active and is one of the reasons bingo is so popular with the elderly; it provides a busy social setting and encourages brain function.

Take care of your brain

Head trauma can affect how the brain works and can lead to complications in later life. Therefore, it is important to protect the brain in youth - when people are more likely to take risks - to ensure it stays healthy.

Use memory aids

Even when the mind starts to go, memory aids can help prolong its health by providing stimulation and encouragement. Companies such as Doro have created various memory aids to help people with early signs of dementia use everyday objects which may otherwise be confusing. Plenty of other memory aids are also available for everyday household jobs.