Study Strengthens Evidence That Mental Activity Reduces Dementia Risk

Do you enjoy mind-stimulating activities such as reading, playing brain games or attending cultural events?

The evidence is growing that they can boost your brain functioning and delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease or other age-associated dementias. While previous research studies have suggested this link, questions remained as to whether there was a real cause-and-effect relationship, or if the results were biased by other factors, such as
socioeconomic status or preexisting mental health conditions.

A research team from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health recently analyzed 12 peer-reviewed studies suggesting a positive link between late-in-life cognitive activities and the delayed onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

They concluded that any bias that outside factors might have played would not have been significant enough to change the positive outcomes.

“Cognitive activity looks like it may offer some modest protection, and based on our bias analysis I am somewhat less skeptical about the results of the previous studies,” says Deborah Blacker, MD, ScD, of the Mass General Gerontology Unit, senior author of the report. “But remember that any impact will be relative, not absolute.”

“I typically advise people to engage in cognitive activities that they find interesting and enjoyable for their own sake. There is no evidence that one kind of activity is better than another, so I would advise against spending money on programs claiming to protect against dementia.”

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