December 6, 2023

With dementia rates rising, it’s important for older adults to do what they can to prevent or delay the onset of the disease. Some daily activities are better for maintaining brain health than others, a new study finds.

In 2020, more than 55 million people People all over the world suffer from dementia. And, there are more than 10 million new cases each year, and the number is growing. While researchers continue to work on treatments and potential cures, it is worth focusing on activities that can reduce the risk of this debilitating disease.

In a new study from Monash University in Australia, researchers looked at which daily activities are most associated with reducing the risk of dementia in older adults.

Joanne Ryan, corresponding author of the study, said: “We have a unique opportunity to bridge knowledge gaps by investigating a variety of lifestyle-enriching activities that older adults regularly engage in, and assessing which of these activities are associated with avoiding dementia. disease is most relevant.”

The researchers extracted data from 10,318 Australians aged 70 and over who participated in the Aspirin Reduction in Events in Older Adults (ASPREE) study and the ASPREE Longitudinal Study in Older People (ALSOP) substudy. Participants lived in the community and had no severe cognitive impairment.

Information on which socially and mentally stimulating activities participants engaged in was obtained through questionnaires administered during the first year of the ASPREE trial. Questionnaire topics included adult literacy activities (adult education classes, using a computer, journaling), intellectual tasks (quizzes, crossword puzzles, playing cards or chess), creative hobbies (woodworking, knitting, painting), more passive activities (reading, listening to music), social networking activities (such as meeting and interacting with family and friends), and going to libraries, restaurants or cafes, museums, etc.

The researchers examined the association of 19 measures of lifestyle enrichment with dementia risk. Models were adjusted for variables such as age, sex, race and ethnicity, education, socioeconomic status, smoking status and alcohol intake, body mass index (BMI), and existing conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

In terms of the frequency of leisure activities, watching TV, listening to music or the radio, and reading books are the most common, and more than 73.5% of the respondents said they have done these activities. More than half (53.9%) reported using a computer all the time; in contrast, the majority (75.8%) had never drawn or drawn a picture.

The researchers found that increasing the frequency of participation in adult literacy (educational classes, using computers, letter writing and journaling) was associated with an 11 percent lower risk of dementia. More frequent participation in positive mental activities, such as playing games, playing cards or chess, and doing puzzles and crosswords, was associated with a 9 percent reduction. Creative hobbies and passive mental activity were associated with a 7 percent lower risk of dementia. Even after adjusting for variables such as education and socioeconomic status, these associations remained constant and broadly consistent across sexes.

The researchers believe that these activities involve active participation, critical thinking, logical reasoning, and social interaction, resulting in cognitive stimulation that increases resistance to brain disease. Active mental activities such as doing crosswords and puzzles, playing games, chess, or cards are often competitive, involve complex strategy and problem solving, and provide social interaction.

Somewhat unexpectedly, the researchers found that the size of the network and the frequency of social interactions were not associated with dementia risk. Still, they say that shouldn’t stop people from seeking out social connections, if they feel like it.

“Participants were cognitively healthy and likely already led active social lives, so the cognitive benefits of a strong social network may be less pronounced in this group than in the general population,” Ryan said.

The researchers say the study provides practical guidelines for activities that favor sustained brain health and may help older adults and aged care professionals develop targeted approaches to reduce dementia risk.

“I think our results tell us that active manipulation of previously stored knowledge may play a bigger role in reducing dementia risk than passive recreation,” Ryan said. “Keeping the mind active and taking on challenges may be especially important.”

The study was published in the journal JAMA Network Open.

source: monash university