Modifying your risk of dementia

Ahead of Dementia Auckland’s ‘Getting a diagnosis and planning for the future‘ event on June 27, Nikki Purvis Schischka from Dementia Auckland tells us how 40% of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed through the modification of key risk factors.

Think of your brain as `Headquarters’ – the control room where all the core functions for your body and mind come from. It doesn’t get a holiday or take time out, it’s always “on”, working 24/7, taking care of your thoughts, breathing, movement and senses even while you’re asleep.

Everything starts and ends with our brain, so if it’s at risk, there’s a greater chance of developing the brain diseases that can lead to dementia.

The Lancet Commission’s Prevention, Intervention and Care report released in 2020 highlights that 40% of dementia cases could be prevented or delayed through the modification of key risk factors.

We know there is a connection between poor lifestyle choices and dementia so taking just one small step towards modifying our risk factors can have a positive effect on the overall health and wellbeing of our brain.

Diet and nutrition

Our brain works best when it gets premium fuel through a balanced diet with high-quality foods, rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that will nourish and protect our brain.

Limit alcohol and stop smoking

Heavy drinking and smoking puts the brain at a higher risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia. Aim for three alcohol free days per week, stop smoking or reduce exposure to second-hand smoke.

Quality and quantity of sleep

Poor sleep quality and duration, insomnia or obstructive sleep apnoea may be associated with a higher risk of dementia. Sleep is vital for our body to repair, be fit and ready for another day. Aim for an average of 5-7 hours per night

Physical activity

Physical activity is vital for our heart, body and mind because our brain needs oxygen and blood flow to work efficiently. The recommended amount is 150-300 minutes a week with an emphasis on balance and strength as we age to prevent falls.

Brain injury

Protect your head from injuries like concussion that can elevate the risk of problems with cognition and dementia.


If we don’t use it we lose it! It’s vital to maintain cognitive function by remaining mentally stimulated. Crosswords, puzzles, Sudoku, reading and learning something new on a regular basis.

Hearing loss

Protect your hearing and get hearing aids if they’re needed. A decreased level of input to the brain, means less processing occurs which can lead to cognitive deficits if not addressed.

Hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol and obesity

Aim to maintain a systolic blood pressure of 130mm Hg or less, have regular medication reviews, and maintain a healthy weight which in turn will have an effect on cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease.


Depression can be related with the incidence of dementia and may be an early warning sign. It is important to get help and support for mental health and wellbeing to manage stress, anxiety, unresolved grief or other issues.

Social connection

Loneliness and isolation can lead to poor health and well-being outcomes; cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, dementia and hormone imbalances. Maintain structure in your week, stay socially active, keep in contact with family, friends and enjoy time with other people.

Preventing dementia needs to begin early and continue to be a priority throughout our lives.

About Nikki Purvis Schischka

Marketing Coordinator at Dementia Auckland

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