A 44-year follow-up study of women has identified activities you can do in middle age to help lower your dementia risk…

A study involving 800 women, followed for 44 years, found that keeping physically and mentally active in middle age may be tied to a lower risk of developing dementia decades later.

What kinds of activity help?

At the beginning of the study, participants were asked about their mental and physical activities.

Mental activities

Mental activities included:

WIN a R 2,000 Woolworths Voucher

Subscribe to our Free Daily All4Women Newsletter to enter

  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Artistic activities – such as going to a concert or singing in a choir
  • Manual activities – such as needlework or gardening
  • Club activities
  • Religious activity

Participants were given scores in each of the five areas based on how often they participated in mental activities, with a score of zero for no or low activity, one for moderate activity and two for high activity.

For example, moderate artistic activity was defined as attending a concert, play or art exhibit during the last six months, while high artistic activity was defined as more frequent visits, playing an instrument, singing in a choir or painting. The total score possible was 10.

Participants were divided into two groups. The low group, with 44 percent of participants, had scores of zero to two and the high group, with 56 percent of participants, had scores of three to 10.

A habit that makes women 90% less likely to develop dementia

Exercise: Active vs inactive

For physical activity, participants were divided into two groups, active and inactive.

The active group ranged from light physical activity such as walking, gardening, bowling or biking for a minimum of four hours per week to regular intense exercise such as running or swimming several times a week or engaging in competitive sports.

A total of 17 percent of the participants were in the inactive group and 82 percent were in the active group.

Women with a high level of mental activities were 46 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease

Forty-four years later

During the study, 194 women developed dementia. Of those, 102 had Alzheimer’s disease, 27 had vascular dementia and 41 had mixed dementia.

Mixed dementia is when more than one type of dementia is present, such as the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease along with the blood vessel changes seen in vascular dementia.

The study found that women with a high level of mental activity were 46 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and 34 percent less likely to develop dementia overall than the women with a low level of mental activity.

The women who were physically active were 52 percent less likely to develop dementia with cerebrovascular disease and 56 percent less likely to develop mixed dementia than the women who were inactive.

How exercise prevents dementia

Women who were physically active were 52 percent less likely to develop dementia with cerebrovascular disease and 56 percent less likely to develop mixed dementia than the women who were inactive.

The researchers took into account other factors that could affect the risk of dementia, such as high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes.

They also ran the results again after excluding women who developed dementia about halfway through the study to rule out the possibility that those women may have been in the prodromal stage of dementia, with less participation in the activities as an early symptom. The results were similar, except that physical activity was then associated with a 34 percent reduced overall risk of dementia.

“These results indicate that these activities in middle age may play a role in preventing dementia in old age and preserving cognitive health,” said study author Jenna Najar, MD, from Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

“It’s exciting as these are activities that people can incorporate into their lives pretty easily and without a lot of expense.”

Source: University of Gothenburg via www.sciencedaily.com

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.