Science and Health

Intellectually Active Lifestyles Might Lower Dementia Risk

A study from researchers at the Mayo Clinic suggests a lifetime of learning might delay or prevent the onset of dementia later in life.

Intellectually Active Lifestyles Might Lower Dementia Risk
Flickr / Marc Lagneau

You know the old saying, "You learn something new every day"? Now health researchers are saying it's probably a good idea to make sure that happens. 

"Keeping the brain busy might protect older people from the onset of dementia. ... A higher level of education and intellectual activity may delay the start of Alzheimer's symptoms by nearly nine years." (Via CBS)

In a study published in the journal JAMA Neurology, researchers at the Mayo Clinic studied nearly 2,000 men and women between the ages of 70 and 89. The team used education and occupation as well as mid- and late-life cognitive activity — think playing games, reading books — to give each person a score. (Via Flickr / Tripp, Brenda Clarke, Marc Lagneau)

HealthDay reports those who scored lowest were the most at risk for dementia, but "regardless of educational and professional background, all participants who routinely engaged in intellectually stimulating activities in middle-age and their later years also ended up seeing their relative risk for dementia drop."

Although we've known an intellectually enriched lifetime can stave off dementia, this study succeeded in showing a significant link between mid- and late-life intellectual stimulation and a delay in cognitive impairment. 

Even more promising, researchers say those patients studied who were APOE4 carriers — a gene variant linked to a high risk for Alzheimer's disease  were able to hold off the onset of dementia for longer, based on their cognitive activity. (Via JAMA Neurology)