Keeping the aging mind active cuts dementia risk

Updated: Sep 24, 2009, 00:00 AM IST

New York: Elders who work crossword puzzles, play cards, partake in artistic and organizational activities, and attend movie or theater productions may halve their risk for dementia, report researchers from France.

Over 4 years, dementia risk was 50 percent lower among community-living elders who reported such mentally stimulating activities at least twice weekly versus less than once weekly, Dr. Tasnime Akbaraly, at INSERM, France`s public health research agency, in Montpellier, and colleagues report.

Their study, in the journal Neurology, followed 5,698 men and women, 65 years and older, who were free of dementia at the outset. During follow-up, 161 of these elders developed dementia.

Mind-stimulating leisure time pursuits, like crossword puzzles, were found to be significantly associated with a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer`s disease over the 4-year follow up period.

By contrast, Akbaraly`s team observed no protective effect from physical, passive, and social leisure activities such as doing odd jobs, gardening, walking, watching television, listening to the radio, or visiting with friends.

These observations were independent of education level, occupation, and brain functioning at the beginning of the study, Akbaraly told Reuters Health in an email correspondence.

The associations also remained strong after allowing for gender, age, marital status and health-related history, such as blood vessel disease, depressive symptoms, and physical functioning.

The reduced risk of dementia observed in elders regularly partaking in mentally stimulating activities was also independent of physical, social, and passive forms of leisure activities.

These findings agree with previously published reports that mentally stimulating leisure activities may help protect from dementia, the investigators note.

Bureau Report