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Keeping your brain active may delay the onset of Alzheimer's, study finds

Activities like crossword puzzles or reading can help consumers maintain cognitive function

Photo (c) Peter Dazeley - Getty Images
While several studies have emphasized the cognitive benefits for older consumers that stay physically active, a new study has explored the importance of also staying mentally active. 

According to researchers from the American Academy of Neurology, older consumers that are engaged with activities like reading, crossword puzzles, or card games are more likely to keep their brains active, which can delay the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s

“Our study shows that people who engage in more cognitively stimulating activities may be delaying the age at which they develop dementia,” said researcher Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D. “It is important to note, after we accounted for late life level of cognitive activity, neither education nor early life cognitive activity were associated with the age at which a person developed Alzheimer’s dementia. Our research suggests that the link between cognitive activity and the age at which a person developed dementia is mainly driven by the activities you do later in life.”  

The benefits of keeping the brain active

The researchers had nearly 2,000 participants around the age of 80 involved in the study. Each year of the study, the participants had their cognitive skills tested, and they also answered questions about how often they engaged in hobbies like playing cards, doing crossword puzzles, or reading. 

The researchers determined that participants who completed more of these activities had better overall cognitive function. This is especially important for older consumers because higher cognitive function was associated with delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s by five years. Those with lower cognitive function typically developed Alzheimer’s at 89, but participants that regularly played card games or wrote letters typically developed Alzheimer’s at 94. 

The researchers explained that participants were more likely to have strong cognitive function when they engaged in these activities several times per week. It’s also important to note that consumers can pick up these hobbies at any point in older age to reap these benefits. 

“The good news is that it’s never too late to start doing the kinds of inexpensive, accessible activities we looked at in our study,” said Dr. Wilson “Our findings suggest it may be beneficial to start doing these things, even in your 80s, to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia.” 

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