Can physical or cognitive activity prevent dementia? – Harvard Health

On September 2, 2021, the World Health Organization estimated that more than 55 million people are currently living with dementia, rising to 78 million by 2030 and 139 million by 2050. What can you do do not to be part of it? flood of dementia? There is new evidence from two studies conducted by researchers at Rush University in Chicago that cognitive and physical activities can make a real difference in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.

Cognitive activity and age of onset of Alzheimer’s disease

In the first study, researchers asked 1,903 dementia-free seniors from the Rush Memory and Aging Project to report how often they participated in cognitive stimulation activities. These people were 75% female, 89% Caucasian and non-Latin, and had a median income between $ 35,000 and $ 49,999. The cognitively stimulating activities measured were how often they spent reading, visiting a library, reading newspapers, reading magazines, reading books, writing letters, and playing games (such as checkers or other board games, cards, puzzles, etc.). In about seven years, researchers found that 457 people had been clinically diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It is important to note that people with high levels of cognitive activity (the top 10%) developed Alzheimer’s disease at an average age of 93.6 years – five years later than people with low levels. of cognitive activity (the bottom 10%), which developed the disease at an 88.6 year old.

This carefully conducted study controlled for education, early cognitive activity, social activity, and loneliness. They also looked for “reverse causation” – that is, whether their finding was due to the possibility that people who had more Alzheimer’s disease (the amyloid plaques and tau tangles visible under a microscope) likely had stopped participating in cognitive activities. activities several years before their diagnosis. Autopsy pathology data were available for 695 of 1,903 people. The researchers found that the amount of conditions related to Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders was unrelated to cognitive activity. The authors concluded that a cognitively active lifestyle in old age can increase cognitive reserve, delaying the onset of clinical Alzheimer’s disease for up to five years.

Physical activity and rate of cognitive decline

In the second study, another group of researchers looked at physical activity, total blood level of tau (a marker of Alzheimer’s disease), and cognitive function in 1,159 participants in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. These individuals were 63% female, 60% African American and, on average, 77 years old. Of the participants, 31% reported little or no physical activity, 34.5% reported average physical activity (less than 150 minutes / week, average 62.5 minutes / week) and 34.5% reported high physical activity (at least 150 minutes / week, average 327.5 minutes / week). The results showed that whether individuals had high or low blood tau levels, increased physical activity was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline.

Take charge of your cognitive destiny

These studies are important because they show that, despite an equivalent amount of Alzheimer’s disease (measured at autopsy in the first study and by blood in the second), individuals who are more cognitively and physically active may have delayed their clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. This means that even if you are likely by a family history – or by bad luck – to develop Alzheimer’s disease at some point in your life, you can delay the onset of the disease by remaining cognitively and physically active. and you can start at any age. So increase your cognitive activities, increase your physical activities, adopt a brain healthy lifestyle and take control of your cognitive destiny today!

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