5 Health Habits That Reduce Your Risk of Dementia

Photo by Corbis.Here's motivation to live a healthier lifestyle: Following a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a low body weight, avoiding smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption can help reduce the odds of dementia, according to research published Tuesday.

Researchers at Cardiff University in the U.K. studied 2,235 men and found that those who adopted all five, or even four, of these healthy behaviors experienced a 60 percent reduction in dementia and overall cognitive decline (with exercise being the strongest mitigating factor). Seventy percent fewer cases of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke were found in those men, compared to people who didn't practice any of the behaviors.

Yahoo Shine could not reach the lead study author, Professor Peter Elwood, for comment; however, he said in a press release, "What the research shows is that following a healthy lifestyle confers surprisingly large benefits to health — healthy behaviors have a far more beneficial effect than any medical treatment or preventative procedure."

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Unfortunately, Elwood adds, few people follow a fully healthy lifestyle. Here are some tips for incorporating all five health habits into your lifestyle.

Work out in pairs: People who exercise with a friend burn more calories, according to recent research conducted at Kansas State University. Some ideas: Take a walk, join a Spinning class, or play indoor tennis. And if you own a dog, even better — in one study, people who exercised with their dogs lost an average of 5 percent of their body weight.

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Acknowledge your cravings: Your secret weapon against junk food is, actually, facing the fact you want it. One study conducted by Drexel University found that dieters who admitted they had cravings (versus those who tried to ignore them) consciously chose not to act on them. The idea is that accepting cravings as a daily part of life will better equip you to deal with them.

Plan your quit-smoking date: If you're not a smoker, congrats. If you're trying to quit, don't attempt to do it during the holiday season. The celebratory atmosphere — parties, alcohol, and decadent food — can offset your health goals in general, so it's best to select a specific date after the festivities, according to the American Lung Association.

If you drink alcohol, stick to lower-calorie cocktails: Holiday cocktails and after-work happy hours can be tempting, but drink too much and your fitness goals will fall by the wayside. Steer clear of creamy, sugary drinks such as eggnog and White Russians and stick to lower-calorie drinks. An ounce of vodka mixed with club soda and a squeeze of lime is just 65 calories.

Get more sleep:
Adopting any of these habits will help get your weight down and keep you healthy. To keep weight low, don't skimp on sleep. According to Harvard School of Public Health, sleep-deprived people have higher levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and lower levels of the satiety-inducing hormone leptin.

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