One of the factors that stands out for protecting against the symptoms of ageing or dementia in the brain is a high level of education. People who have spent a longer time in education tend to have a lower risk of developing the symptoms of dementia, even if the brain is showing the physical signs of disease. This is thought to be because they have a higher level of cognitive reserve.
‘Great!’ you say. ‘But I left school decades ago, what can I do about it? Have I missed the boat?’ Well maybe it’s not too late to get that brain muscle flexing in your favour. Research as part of the Bronx Aging Study in the US shows that in people who have developed dementia, taking part in what they call ‘cognitively stimulating leisure activities’ could delay the onset of a rapid decline in memory. (You can read the study abstract here).
A more recent study from Germany in 2012 also suggests that cognitive leisure activities can help prevent mild cognitive impairment. (You can read more here).
And while there’s still plenty left to find out about whether and how it works, it could be a wise move for older adults who are at risk of dementia, or in fact adults of any age, to engage in activities that get the mental juices going, such as reading, writing and card games. Those cerebral exercises could be doing more than providing interesting pastimes.
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