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Mental Activity Helps to Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Taken directly from the Rush Memory and Aging Project news release.

How often older adults read a newspaper, play chess, or engage in other mentally stimulating activities is related to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center.

Frequent Brain Stimulation in Old Age Reduces Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

(CHICAGO) – How often older adults read a newspaper, play chess, or engage in other mentally stimulating activities is related to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center published June 27 in the online edition of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, more than 700 people in Chicago with an average age of 80 underwent yearly cognitive testing for up to five years. Participants were part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a longitudinal study of more than 1,200 older people. Of the participants, 90 developed Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also performed a brain autopsy on the 102 participants who died.

The study found that a cognitively active person in old age was 2.6 times less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than a cognitively inactive person in old age. This association remained after controlling for past cognitive activity, lifetime socioeconomic status, and current social and physical activity.

Researchers say the findings may be used to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

“Alzheimer’s disease is among the most feared consequences of old age,” said study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, a neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “The enormous public health problems posed by the disease are expected to increase during the coming decades as the proportion of old people in the United States increases. This underscores the urgent need for strategies to prevent the disease or delay its onset.”

Wilson says the study also found frequent cognitive activity during old age such as visiting a library or attending a play, was associated with reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment, a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia, and less rapid decline in cognitive function.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Aging and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center is one of 29 NIA-supported Alzheimer’s Disease Centers across the U.S. which conduct basic science, clinical, and social and behavioral research on dementia and AD. General information on aging and aging research can be viewed at the NIA’s home website, http://www.nia.nih.gov. For more information on the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, visit http://www.rush.edu.

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