Dementia If You Do, Dementia If You Don’t
By: Sharon O’Brien
On the subject of seniors staving off dementia by staying mentally active, there is good news and bad news, according to new research published this month by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Exercising your mind with activities such as reading a newspaper, going to a museum, solving crossword puzzles or playing chess does help slow or prevent the development of dementia, just as we’ve been told for the past several years. But new evidence shows that once dementia begins, that same mentally stimulating lifestyle that helped keep dementia at bay can cause the disease to progress much more quickly.
For the study, researchers recruited 1,157 people who were 65 and older–all free of dementia–from the same Chicago neighborhood, asked them how often they participated in mentally stimulating activities, and gave each person a score on a cognitive activity scale. The more frequently people exercised their minds with stimulating activities, the higher their score.
More than a decade later, researchers found that for seniors who didn’t have dementia the rate of cognitive decline was reduced by 52 percent for each point on the cognitive activity scale. For those who had developed Alzheimer’s disease during the previous decade, however, the average rate of cognitive decline per year increased 42 percent for every point on the cognitive activity scale.