Ask Joan: Tips for helping to prevent dementia
June 5, 2023

Q: I read the other day that every three seconds someone develops dementia, and nearly 50 million people in the world are living with the disease. As I get older, I worry about developing Alzheimer’s disease. What can I do to keep my brain healthy?

A: This is a major public health issue for many reasons, not the least of which is because everybody has a brain. June is National Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.

Joan Hatem-Roy, CEO of AgeSpan

Age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, but not the only one. While some changes to our brain and how it functions are inevitable as we age, there is research to suggest adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors may help our brains age healthier.

The Alzheimer’s Association states, “The more people know about Alzheimer’s, the more action we inspire!” It offers these five tips to promote better brain health and help reduce the risk of cognitive decline:

Exercise regularly: Cardiovascular exercise helps increase blood flow to the body and brain, and there is compelling evidence that regular physical activity is linked to better memory and thinking.

Maintain a heart-healthy diet: Stick to meals full of fruits and vegetables to ensure a well-balanced diet. Some evidence suggests a healthful diet is linked to cognitive performance. The Mediterranean and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diets, which emphasize whole grains, green leafy vegetables, fish, and berries, are linked to better cognitive functioning and help reduce risk of heart disease as well.

Get proper sleep: A regular, uninterrupted sleep pattern benefits physical and psychological health, and helps clear waste from the brain. Adults should get at least seven hours of sleep each night and try to keep a routine bedtime.

Stay socially and mentally active: Meaningful social engagement may support cognitive health, so stay connected with friends and family. Engage your mind by doing activities that stump you, like completing a jigsaw puzzle or playing strategy games. Or challenge yourself by learning a new language or musical instrument.

Keep your heart healthy: Recent research shows strong evidence that a healthier heart is connected to a healthier brain. Aggressively treating high blood pressure in older adults can help reduce the development of mild cognitive impairment.

These tips are great advice for people of all ages, but especially older adults. Research suggests incorporating all these behaviors will have the greatest benefit, but even one or two can be beneficial.

And what about those who take care of the people with the disease? There’s help for them, too.

We offer the Building Better Caregivers program through our Healthy Living Center for Excellence.

Building Better Caregivers is a workshop offered once a week for six consecutive weeks and is open to all caregivers. The goal is to learn tools to become better caregivers and help better support your care partner.

Topics covered during the workshop include challenging care partner behaviors, tools to improving fatigue, dealing with triggers, a healthy you, problem-solving, dealing with difficult thoughts and emotions, future planning, and legal issues, finding and hiring help.

The first six weeks of the program focusses on learning tools to become better caregivers and better support care partners. The seventh week focuses on high-level dementia information.

For more information on the Building Better Caregivers program, contact the Healthy Living Center of Excellence at 978-946-1211 or visit

Are you caring for an older adult or need help locating healthy aging resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at for more information. You can also call us at 800-892-0890 or email Joan Hatem-Roy is the chief executive officer of AgeSpan.

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