This morning, several news items appeared in the world press on a study relating the impact of mental exercises to the incidence of dementia in the elderly. The new study, reported the Aug. 4 issue of the journal Neurology, involved following 488 elderl y people aged 75 to 85 (mean age 79.5) for an average of five years. The participants did not have dementia when they enrolled in the study and 101 of them developed dementia during the study period. “We assessed the influence of self-reported participation in cognitively stimulating leisure activities on the onset of accelerated memory decline.” (The activities reported on were daily reading, writing, group discussions, playing music, doing crossword puzzles, and playing board or card games.) “Results: Each additional self-reported day of cognitive activity at baseline delayed the onset of accelerated memory decline by 0.18 years (66 days)(ref).” “”The point of accelerated decline was delayed by 1.29 years for the person who participated in 11 activities per week compared to the person who participated in only four activities per week,” said study author Charles B. Hall of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY(ref).”
The link between mental activity and a reduced risk of dementia is not new. “In one study, Dr Valenzuela, a clinical neuroscience research fellow at the University of NSW school of psychiatry, looked at almost 29,000 people.” (The study combined data from 22 studies worldwide.) “He found that a lifetime of complex mental activity almost halved the risk of dementia. — A separate study conducted over three years used repeated brain scans of healthy people aged over 60. It found those who led mentally stimulating lives had “less shrinkage of the hippocampus”, the area of the brain associated with memory and the first area affected by Alzheimer’s(ref).”
I have written about mental exercise before in this blog. See the post Brain fitness, Google and comprehending longevity. Repeating something I said there, “Try and get your arms around longevity research and I can personally guarantee you will get ample mental exercise.” Physical exercise too powerfully helps postpone or prevent dementia – but that will be the subject of another blog posting.