While aspects like your genetics, race, and sex play a big role, a healthy diet and lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of developing both heart disease and dementia later in life.
Researchers of a 2023 study that included data on over 114,000 people found that people who more closely followed healthy diets—including plant-based diets and Mediterranean-style diets—during midlife had a lower risk of developing dementia later in life7. The study also found that these healthy eating patterns were significantly associated with larger brain volumes, which is encouraging because loss of brain volume is associated with cognitive decline8.
Both those diets are low in added sugars, which seem to be particularly harmful to brain health. Researchers of a 2021 study that analyzed data from almost 3,000 people found that those who most regularly consumed sugary drinks were nearly 3 times as likely to develop dementia—including Alzheimer’s disease—than people who avoided those beverages.
In addition to what you eat, exercising, avoiding and quitting smoking, managing your weight, and taking heart-healthy supplements can help protect your heart and brain, too.