Losing memory as we age is a sign of mild cognitive impairment, which can be a gateway to senile dementia, including Alzheimer’s. By using and keeping active our brains, however, we can help keep it sharp.
According to a new study published online July 10 in the journal Neurology, keeping our brains active as you age, whether it be working on a computer, playing games or being socially involved, can ward off memory loss.
For the study, psychiatrist Dr. Yonas Geda of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, and his colleagues followed 2,000 men and women (average age 78) who didn’t suffer from mild cognitive impairment for 5 years. The participants answered questions about mentally stimulating activities they engaged in when they were 50 and when they were 66 and older. Participants also took thinking and memory tests every 15 months. During the 5 years of the study, 532 people developed mild cognitive impairment.
The researchers found that:
- Those who used a computer (such as accessing, reading, and commenting on FOTM!) during middle age had a 48% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment. Using a computer after age 66 was linked to a 30% lower risk. Computer use during middle and old age reduced the risk of thinking and memory problems by 37%.
- Involvement in social activities (being with friends, going to the movies, etc.) and playing games were both tied to a 20% lower risk for mild cognitive impairment.
- Doing crafts in later life was linked to a 42% lower risk for mild cognitive impairment.
- The more activities people engaged in, the less likely they were to develop mild cognitive impairment:
- Doing two activities was associated with a 28% lower risk of developing memory and thinking problems, compared with those who didn’t do any activities.
- Those who did three activities lowered the risk by 45%.
- Doing four activities reduced the risk 56%.
Heather Snyder, senior director for medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer’s Association, said: “This study aligns with a growing body of evidence that there are steps you can take today to help keep your brain healthier as you age, and perhaps also reduce your risk of cognitive decline. Keeping your brain healthy is a lifelong pursuit and staying engaged in a variety of mentally and socially stimulating activities is important throughout one’s life.”
Dr. Geda said why keeping mentally active has this effect isn’t known, but it might be that the brain responds positively to increased use “like watering a flower.” It’s also possible that people who engage in mental activities also have other good behaviors that benefit brain health, such as exercising and eating a healthy diet.
Regardless of why being mentally active staves off senile dementia, the good news is that even people over 70 can benefit from mental activity. Dr. Geda said: “Our study shows that it’s never too late to engage in mental activities. These activities don’t need to be expensive, they’re accessible and simple and reduce the risk for mild cognitive impairment.”
Source: Medicine Net
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