ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)–New studies published in the American Academy of Neurology journal find that specific lifestyle changes can help reduce dementia risks over time.

One study looked at how physical and mental activities can reduce the risks of dementia. The second study looks at ultra-processed foods and their future risks.

The physical study was conducted with over 500,000 participants and was followed for over 11 years. Results showed that those who had frequent physical activity had a 35% lower risk of developing the disease than those that weren’t as active.

The Alzheimer’s Association of Greater PA Vice President for Programs and Services, Sara Murphy, noted how these behaviors help with cognitive engagement.

“More and more evidence is showing that a lifestyle that is brain healthy includes cognitive and social engagement,” Murphy said. That includes physical exercise, diet, and nutrition. Those are all really key components to lowering one’s risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.”

Murphy added that exercise could be something as simple as walking. In addition, doing routine tasks such as household chores and maintaining social activity with friends and family can reduce risks by 21% and 15%, respectively.

The main idea is having a purpose and maintaining engagement is key to brain health. So being sociable is cognitive stimulation and helps build cognitive reserve.

“I would say that having a routine or really having a purpose,” Murphy said. “We always say that cognitive engagement. So if you want to mix up, actually your routine is really good for your brain and increases new brain cells.”

The second study analyzed ultra-processed foods and the future dementia risks. The results found that replacing ultra-processed foods with whole and unprocessed foods can help fight dementia.

Those changes include fruits, raw and frozen vegetables, eggs, and poultry. These changes are similar to the Mediterranean Diet and Dash Diet.

“The Dash diet or the Mediterranean Diet, those two diets have been shown to be very brain health and can increase good antioxidants to the brain,” Murphy said. “We need really good fat in order for our brains to be effective and to be healthy.”

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Murphy said that these changes are not a guarantee of getting dementia. However, she further said it’s important to maintain talks about brain health and what factors one can control to keep risks low.

“Potential lifestyle interventions could make up to about 40% of cases of dementia. That’s huge,” Murphy said. “So, being able to think about what I can control versus what I can’t control. That’s why it’s so important to amplify the importance of talking about your cognitive and brain health.”