General medical news

Mental stimulation reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease

2 July 2007

A five-year study of older people has found that the amount of mental stimulation affects the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. How often old people read a newspaper, play chess, or engage in other mentally stimulating activities is related to risk of developing the disease.

The study, which was part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a longitudinal study of more than 1,200 older people, was published in the online edition of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology on 27 June, 2007.

In the study, more than 700 people in Chicago, USA, with an average age of 80 underwent yearly cognitive testing for up to five years. Participants were. 90 of the participants developed Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also performed a brain autopsy on the 102 participants who died.

A cognitively active person in old age was 2.6 times less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than a cognitively inactive person in old age. This association remained after controlling for past cognitive activity, lifetime socioeconomic status, and current social and physical activity.

“Alzheimer’s disease is among the most feared consequences of old age,” said study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “The enormous public health problems posed by the disease are expected to increase during the coming decades as the proportion of old people in the United States increases. This underscores the urgent need for strategies to prevent the disease or delay its onset.”

Wilson says the study also found frequent cognitive activity during old age, such as visiting a library or attending a play, was associated with reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment, a transitional stage between normal aging and dementia, and less rapid decline in cognitive function.

So Nintendo may be on the right track with its mental agility video games aimed at at older people.

Each year that dementia is delayed will lead to significant savings for  national healthcare budgets — see Growing Alzheimer’s epidemic could cripple healthcare.

Information wanted
MTB Europe would like to hear from anyone involved
in developing electronic games/applications/devices for,
or studying their use by, the elderly (ie for their pleasure
or to aid social interaction).
Please contact the Editor!

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