Brain Stimulation in Old Age Reduces Risk for Alzheimer's Disease
Posted Jul 31 2009 10:49am
In a study of more than 700 elderly, community-dwelling individuals, a cognitively inactive person was 2.6 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than a cognitively active person.
Frequent cognitive activity during old age — such as reading a newspaper, going to see a play, or playing chess or checkers — was also linked with a reduced incidence of mild cognitive impairment.
"The implications are much more from a public health perspective than a clinical perspective," said Dr. Robert Bennett. "As a society, how do we encourage all people, not just seniors, to engage in cognitive activities?"
Dr. Bennett noted that cognitive activity is just one aspect of staving off memory loss. Physical activity and social activity play a role. The group published a study last year showing that cognitive function was higher in individuals with larger social networks.
Frequent Brain Stimulation in Old Age Reduces Risk for Alzheimer's Disease
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 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.
For more information on the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center go here.
Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for advice and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 700 articles with more than 18,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.