Could Brain Exercises Accelerate Dementia Later?

By Elizabeth Thielke / Posted on 19 October 2010

There’s a lot of research that supports the idea that brain exercises keeping the memory sharp. Seniors are playing video games, reading and doing crossword puzzles like never before, hoping to ward off signs of dementia and cognitive decline.

But, a recent study puts a new spin on this notion as it found that exercising your brain can keep you sharp longer into old age, but when symptoms of dementia appear, the decline happens faster in those whose brains have been busiest:

For the study, researchers evaluated the mental activities of 1,157 people age 65 or older who did not have dementia at the start of the nearly 12-year study.

People answered questions about how often they participated in mental activities such as listening to the radio, watching television, reading, playing games and going to a museum; for this five-point cognitive activity scale, the more points scored, the more often people participated in mentally stimulating exercises.

During the next six years, the study found that the rate of cognitive decline in people without cognitive impairment was reduced by 52 percent for each point on the cognitive activity scale.

The study goes on to caution that even though a faster decline is noted after symptoms set in, dementia takes twice as long to set in among people who challenge their brains the most, thus reducing the time someone could spend in a state of cognitive decline.

-Elizabeth Thielke


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