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Does mental activity prevent dementia?

We've heard a lot about the idea that one way to protect against Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia is to stay mentally active. In fact, an entire industry has cropped up offering programs of mental exercises that will supposedly keep us sharp. But does doing crossword puzzles, learning Italian or reading the dictionary really protect our minds? A new federally funded study finds that it does, but only for so long. And then when the decline does finally does begin, it happens a lot faster among people who have been mentally active, according to this new research.

Robert Wilson of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and his colleagues studied 1,157 people age 65 or older who did not have dementia when their 12-year research began. The subjects underwent a detailed evaluation to determine their mental status and questions about how often they participated in activities such as listening to the radio, watching television, reading magazines and newspapers, doing crossword puzzles and playing other games and going to a museum.

Over the next six years, the researchers found that for each point someone scored higher on a scale measuring their mental activity level their rate of cognitive decline was reduced by about 52 percent, the researchers reported in Wednesday's issue of the journal Neurology. However, once the decline began, those who were the most active tended to deteriorate faster than those who were less active, the researchers found. This is the first study to make that finding.

Wilson says this is probably because those who have been mentally active are able to maintain their thinking abilities despite whatever damage is occurring in their brains for much longer than those who are not. And so when the damage finally does get so bad that it starts to show itself, these people are actually much farther along and so go down hill much more quickly.

So, in a way, the study is saying that mental activity has benefits in two different ways. First of all, it keeps dementia at bay. And then once the dementia starts it doesn't last as long. So people spend fewer of their final years without their full mental abilities.

By Rob Stein  |  September 1, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  Aging , Alzheimers/Dementia , Neurological disorders , Prevention , Seniors  
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Comments

Your brain: use it or lose it.

Despite bogus information there is nothing you can do to prevent Alzheimer's Disease, there is plenty you can do.

Taking aspirin everyday is not just to prevent a heart attack or stroke. Aspirin also helps to prevent dementia and many cancers. It reduces inflammation.

Avoiding obesity is also another way to prevent dementia. Stay active physically and mentally.

Eating the spice Turmeric - the yellow stuff in mustard and curry powder helps to prevent dementia. Dementia is almost unknown in India where people eat curry and turmeric every day.

Posted by: alance | September 1, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

The Alzheimers Reading Room has clear, concise, usable news, research, insight and advice for the entire Alzheimers community.

The website focuses on those suffering from Alzheimers disease and Dementia, Alzheimers caregivers, and the art of Alzheimers caregiving.

100 Million people have been touched by Alzheimer's disease, and 35 million are worried about Alzheimer's.

http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2010/02/about-alzheimers-reading-room.html

Posted by: BobDeMarco | September 2, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

The Alzheimers Reading Room has clear, concise, usable news, research, insight and advice for the entire Alzheimers community.

The website focuses on those suffering from Alzheimers disease and Dementia, Alzheimers caregivers, and the art of Alzheimers caregiving.

100 Million people have been touched by Alzheimer's disease, and 35 million are worried about Alzheimer's.

http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/2010/02/about-alzheimers-reading-room.html

Posted by: BobDeMarco | September 2, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

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