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Active, daily activities help reduce risk of dementia in seniors, study finds

Experts say these activities may have a greater impact on dementia risk than genetics

Dementia concept with post-it note
Photo (c) Professor25 - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from Simon Fraser University explored how consumers’ day-to-day habits may impact their risk of developing dementia. According to their findings, older consumers can lower their risk of developing the condition by regularly participating in a variety of different activities.

“Our study results show that the risk of developing dementia can be reduced through a combination of active, daily activities – things like using a computer and playing word games,” said researcher Sylvain Moreno. “Scientists believed that genetics were the main factor influencing cognitive health, but our findings show the reverse. With age, your choice of daily activities is more important than your genetics or your current cognitive skills.” 

Keeping the mind active

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 3,200 participants between the ages of 65 and 89 who were enrolled in the National Institute on Aging’s Health and Retirement Study. Participants answered questions about how frequently they completed a wide range of activities, including baking, playing cards, visiting with loved ones, or exercising, among several others. The team took that information and inserted it into a modeling system to understand how these activities impacted the participants’ cognitive health. 

The study showed that more diverse activities led to better long-term cognitive health. Participants who were consistently active in several different areas had a lower risk of developing dementia. Staying active with hobbies, socializing with family and friends, and engaging in light exercise can help older consumers stay mentally sharp. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope these findings influence how health care providers treat their older patients. 

“Today, around 55 million people have dementia and this number will almost triple by 2050 with an aging population,” Moreno said. “Care for patients with dementia is challenging, labor-intensive, and chronic, which generates high costs for health systems.” 

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