Activities such as playing card games, puzzles, reading and writing, which keep the brain active, can delay the start of symptoms of dementia, suggests a new study in the journal Neurology.
The findings add to a growing body of evidence that suggests exercising the brain can help to protect against the disease later in life.
Dementia is described as a decline in mental capabilities, particularly memory and functioning, that can be caused by disease such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as well as infections to the brain and stroke.
While genetics are suspected to play a role in dementia, recent studies have shown that lifestyle factors might also influence the severity of the problem.
Another recent study by researchers from King’s College in London found staying on the job longer may offset the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. They found each additional year found on the job was found to equal about six-weeks in the delay of dementia.
The new study involved 488 people, participating in the Bronx Aging Study, between 75 and 85 years of age who did not have dementia at the start of the study. They were followed for five years; during that time, 101 people developed dementia.
At the start, participants reported how often they participated in six activities that engage the brain which include: crossword puzzles, paying card games, reading, writing, group discussions and playing music.
A person scored 1 for each day that they did each activity. The higher the score on the activity scale, the later the onset of accelerated mental decline.
The researchers than analyzed the point at which memory loss started accelerating rapidly. They found for every additional activity a person participated in, the onset of rapid memory loss was delayed by about 9 weeks.
“For persons who participated in 11 activities per week, the point of accelerated decline was delayed by 1.29 years, compared to the persons who participated in four weekly activities,” said study author Charles B. Hall of Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
When the researchers factored in education levels of the participants, the results held. Previous studies higher education has been associated in lower occurrences of cognitive decline, although some studies have found the opposite to be true.
High Cholesterol Linked To Dementia Risk
A Kaiser Permanente study released today shows people as young as 40 with borderline or high cholesterol levels are at a greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia, according to CNN Health.
In the study, researchers tracked 10,000 people for four decades, starting when the participants were between 40 and 45. After controlling for diabetes, hypertension and weight, researchers discovered a significant association between borderline-high cholesterol and dementia.
Dementia In Numbers
According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, there are 30 million people with dementia, the most common form of dementia.
By 2050 that number is expected to quadruple. To put it another way, every 71 seconds a person gets Alzheimer’s disease. By the year 2050, that figure will change to every 33 seconds.
The Alzheimer’s Association is calling on Congress and President Obama to double research funding for the incurable illness by 2011, to $1 billion a year. #