Mentally challenging activities decrease risk for dementia


Engaging in brain-stimulating activities like reading and writing could help preserve memory in people as they age.

A new study shows that people who participate in activities that exercise their brain tend to perform far better on tests that measure memory and thinking than those who don't.

According to study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, “exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age.”

Six-year study

For this study, participants were tested every year for six years. They were given a questionnaire that asked about mentally stimulating activities, like reading and writing. Questions also asked about childhood and middle-age activities.

Of the 294 volunteers, 102 eventually developed dementia and 51 registered mild cognitive impairment. The data suggests that people who were more mentally active preserved their memory better than those who weren’t.

Significant reduction in dementia risk

The rate of mental decline for people engaging in frequent mental stimulation during advanced age was 32 percent lower than for individuals with average mental activity. The rate of decline was 48 percent faster among people who were mentally active infrequently.

If a participant died while in the program, this person's brain was examined to see if it contained plaques or lesions. Autopsy supported the assertion that people who were mentally active throughout their lives had a much slower rate of decline in memory than those who weren’t.

“Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents,” said Wilson.

Cognitive activity is key

“More frequent cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline that is independent of common neuropathologic conditions, consistent with the cognitive reserve hypothesis,” concluded the report.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Neurology

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