These lifestyle habits could reduce risk of dementia

Story at a glance


  • For the study, more than 501,000 people with an average age of 56 from a U.K database filled out questionnaires asking how often they participated in various physical activities, household and job-related tasks and mental activities, like social visits.

  • Participants reported their family history for dementia to help researchers narrow down genetic risk factors and then were followed for an average of 11 years.

  • All participants, regardless of their family history for dementia, benefited from the protection of physical and mental activities, according to the study. 

Both mental and physical activities, including climbing stairs or visiting frequently with family and friends, are lifestyle habits scientists say could reduce the risk of dementia, according to a new study.  

“Many studies have identified potential risk factors for dementia, but we wanted to know more about a wide variety of lifestyle habits and their potential role in the prevention of dementia,” said study author Huan Song, of Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.  

“Our study found that exercise, household chores, and social visits were linked to a reduced risk of various types of dementia,” Song added. 

For the study, more than 501,000 people with an average age of 56 from a U.K. database filled out questionnaires asking how often they participated in various physical activities, household and job-related tasks and mental activities, like social visits. 

Other questions related to the participants transportation habits, use of electronic devices and education levels. 

Participants reported their family history for dementia to help researchers narrow down genetic risk factors and then were followed for an average of 11 years.  

Nearly 5,200 people had developed dementia by the end of the study.    

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The team found after adjusting for factors such as age, income and smoking, most mental and physical activities studied were linked to lower risk of dementia. People who exercised frequently were at 35 percent lower risk for dementia than those who did not exercise regularly.  

Participants who engaged in household chores were at a 21 percent lower risk than those who did not, and those who had daily visits with family and friends experienced a 15 percent lower risk.  

All participants, regardless of their family history for dementia, benefited from the protection of physical and mental activities, according to the study. 

Researchers noted a limitation of the study could be linked to self-reported activity levels, which could lead to inaccurate reporting. 

“Our study has found that by engaging more frequently in healthy physical and mental activities people may reduce their risk of dementia,” Song said. “More research is needed to confirm our findings. However, our results are encouraging that making these simple lifestyle changes may be beneficial.”