Research has proven that engaging seniors in brain-stimulating activities such as memory games and strategic puzzles can help slow the progression of cognitive decline.
A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology found that individuals who spent a lifetime taking part in intellectual stimulation and continue to exercise their minds later in life may have a better chance of preventing memory loss.
According to HealthDay, even if someone had low professional and educational achievements, having a life filled with reading and playing games and music can be beneficial.
“In terms of preventing cognitive [mental] impairment, education and occupation are important,” lead author Prashanthi Vemuri, assistant professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic, told the source. “But so is intellectually stimulating activity during mid- to late life. This is very encouraging news, because even if you don’t have a lot of education, or get exposure to a lot of intellectual stimulation during non-leisure activity, intellectual leisure activity later in life can really help.”
Researchers included about 2,000 individuals between the ages of 70 and 89 who were part of the Mayo Clinic aging study between 2004 and 2009. Approximately 1,700 participants were considered cognitively normal, and the remaining 300 experienced mild cognitive impairment.
The team also examined the education levels and occupational activities of the participants and asked them to complete questionnaires on common intellectual stimulation and how often they took part in mentally stimulating activities in the past year and during middle age. Researchers looked to see if participants carried the APOE4 genotype, which may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, as well.
At the start, cognitive function was lowest in APOE4 carriers and people who had scored the lowest job, education and activity measures. The doctors also found that men and older individuals had lower scores. However, participants carrying APOE4 who ranked higher in terms of lifetime mental engagement experienced a delay in dementia risk by 9 years, and all participants who regularly took part in intellectually stimulating activities during middle age and later in life, regardless of professional and educational background, saw a drop in their dementia risk.
“We knew that lifetime intellectual enrichment can delay the onset of cognitive decline, but here we were able to estimate how much it helps you,” Vemuri told Reuters.