Is it possible to avoid dementia?

The MacArthur study of successful aging found that the lifestyle choices made early in life determine health and vitality as aging occurs. In fact, only approximately one-third of what determines successful aging is already programmed through genetics. The other two-thirds result from environmental influence, in large part stemming from lifestyle choices.

Based on evidence from a variety of sources, including epidemiological studies, animal studies, and clinical experience, several strategies may be useful in maximizing brain health. Because data from double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials are generally not available for these approaches, the clinician must weigh the potential risks and benefits of these strategies. For many of these healthy lifestyle choices, such as aerobic conditioning or eating a low-fat diet, the risks are minimal, and benefits have already been proven for other conditions (e.g., cardiac disease).

Epidemiological and other evidence supports lifestyle choices and nonpharmacological strategies that may improve memory performance and may possibly even decelerate brain aging, including maintaining mental activity, stress reduction, physical aerobic conditioning, and healthy dietary habits.