From Steven Reinberg
WEDNESDAY, JULY 10, 2019 (HealthDay News) – Keeping your brain active as you age, whether it is working on a computer, playing games or being socially involved, can prevent memory loss, a new study suggests.
Losing memory as you age is a sign of mild cognitive impairment, which can be a gateway to dementia or Alzheimer's disease. But using your brain can help keep it sharp, and it's never too late to start reaping the benefits, the researchers say.
Why staying mentally active has this effect is not known, but the brain may respond positively to increased use, Dr. senior researcher said. Yonas Geda, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.
"It's like watering a flower," he said.
It is also possible that people who engage in mental activities also have other good behaviors, such as exercising and eating a healthy diet, which benefits brain health, Geda said.
Principal investigator Janina Krell-Roesch, a research assistant at the Mayo Clinic, warned that this study cannot prove that mental activity keeps mild cognitive decline at bay.
"Our study was an observational study, so we can only say that there is a link between mental activities and the risk of mild cognitive impairment," she explained.
But Geda added that the good news is that even people over 70 can benefit from mental activity.
"Our study shows that it is never too late to participate in mental activities," he said. "These activities do not have to be expensive, they are accessible and simple and reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment."
For the study, Geda and his colleagues followed 2,000 men and women, average age 78, who did not suffer from mild cognitive impairment. Participants answered questions about mentally stimulating activities that they started at the age of 50 and when they were 66 and older.
Participants also took mind and memory tests every 15 months in the five years of the study. At the time, 532 people developed mild cognitive impairment.
The researchers discovered that those who used a computer in middle age had a 48% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment. The use of a computer after the age of 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%, the study found.
Involvement in social activities (being with friends, going to the movies, etc.) And playing games were both linked to a 20% lower risk of mild cognitive impairment. Needlework at a later age was linked to a 42% lower risk of mild cognitive impairment.
The more activities people had, the less likely they were to develop mild cognitive impairment. For example, performing two activities was related to a 28% lower risk of developing memory and thinking problems compared to those who did not perform any activities.
Those who performed three activities reduced the risk by 45% and four activities reduced the risk by 56%. The risk was reduced by 43% for five activities.
"This study is consistent with a growing body of evidence that steps can be taken today to keep your brain healthier as you age, and perhaps also to reduce your risk of cognitive decline," said Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer's & # 39; s Association. She was not involved in the study.
"Keeping your brain healthy is a lifelong pursuit and staying involved in a number of mentally and socially stimulating activities is important throughout your life," Snyder said.
The report was published online on July 10 in the magazine Neurology.
Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
SOURCES: Yonas Geda, MD, psychiatrist, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Ariz. Janina Krell-Roesch, Ph.D., research fellow, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Ariz. Heather Snyder, Ph.D., senior director, medical and scientific activities, Alzheimer's & # 39; s Association; July 10, 2019, Neurology, online
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