Dementia: practicing mental, physical and social activities can reduce the risk

Worldwide, approximately 55 million people live with dementia, more than 60% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries. “As the proportion of older people in the population increases in almost all countries, this number is expected to increase to 78 million in 2030 and 139 million in 2050,” warns the World Health Organization. Interventions to reverse this trend are desperately needed. Fortunately, the search continues to find them.

A new study published in the medical journal of American Academy of Neurology identified three activities that can improve brain health.

The meta-analysis concludes that leisure activities, such as reading a book, doing yoga and spending time with family and friends, can help reduce the risk of dementia.

“Previous studies have shown that leisure activities are associated with various health benefits, such as lower cancer risk, reduced atrial fibrillation, and a person’s perception of their own well-being” , said study author Lin Lu, PhD, of Beijing. Beijing Sixth University Hospital, China.

“However, there is conflicting evidence for the role of leisure activities in preventing dementia. Our research found that leisure activities like doing crafts, playing sports or volunteering were linked to a reduced risk of dementia.

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The meta-analysis involved a review of 38 studies from around the world involving a total of more than two million people who did not have dementia. Participants were followed for at least three years.

Participants provided information about their leisure activities through questionnaires or interviews. Leisure activities have been defined as those in which people engage for pleasure or well-being and have been divided into mental, physical and social activities.

What have the researchers learned?

During the studies, 74,700 people developed dementia.

After adjusting for factors such as age, gender and education, the researchers found that leisure activities were linked overall to a reduced risk of dementia.

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Those who engage in leisure activities have a 17% lower risk of developing dementia than those who do not engage in leisure activities.

Mental activity consisted primarily of intellectual pursuits and included reading or writing for pleasure, watching television, listening to the radio, playing games or musical instruments, using a computer, and doing crafts .

Researchers found that people who participated in these activities had a 23% lower risk of dementia.

Physical activities included walking, running, swimming, cycling, using exercise equipment, playing sports, yoga, and dancing.

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Researchers found that people who participated in these activities had a 17% lower risk of dementia.

Social activities primarily referred to activities that involved communication with others and included attending a class, joining a social club, volunteering, visiting relatives or friends, or participating in religious activities .

Researchers found that people who participated in these activities had a 7% lower risk of dementia.

“This meta-analysis suggests that being active has benefits, and there are many activities that are easy to incorporate into daily life that can benefit the brain,” Professor Lu said.

“Our research found that leisure activities can reduce the risk of dementia. Future studies should include larger samples and longer follow-up time to reveal more links between leisure activities and dementia.

A limitation of the study was that people reported their own physical and mental activity, so they may not remember and report the activities correctly.

Speaking about the link between leisure and dementia, Dr Sara Imarisio, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:

“Our brain is amazing, responsible for our memory, as well as what we think, feel, and do. Keeping our brain healthy as we age can help ward off diseases like Alzheimer’s, which physically attack brain cells, tearing apart the very essence of who we are.

“Previous research has suggested that staying alert by keeping the brain mentally active can help strengthen the brain’s ability to resist damage from conditions like Alzheimer’s disease for longer. There’s no conclusive evidence for any particular brain-training programs or activities that are particularly good for staying sharp, but activities that are mentally stimulating, sociable, and also enjoyable are probably better for the brain than hanging out. alone or engaged in passive pastimes. .

“Loving your heart, staying sharp, and staying in touch with others are three easy rules to follow to help keep your brain healthy as you age. Visit to find information and advice on brain health.

Joel C. Hicks