Can computer use and other fun activities actually prevent dementia?

Have you ever wondered if it’s true that stimulating your brain might help to prevent the onset of dementia? The Mayo Clinic recently conducted a study including 2,000 people (age ≥70 years who were cognitively unimpaired at baseline and were followed for 5 years.) Participants completed a survey on timing, number, and frequency of engagement in 5 mentally stimulating activities at baseline:

  • computer use
  • reading books
  • social activities
  • playing games
  • craft activities

They found that the risk of acquiring mild cognitive impairment (MCI) was significantly reduced for those who recalled engaging in social activities and playing games in both late life (age >65) and midlife (age 50-65) combined.

Other interesting observations were made:
  • Using a computer was associated with a decreased risk regardless of age
  • Craft activities were associated with a reduced risk of MCI only when carried out in late life but not midlife
  • Engaging in a higher number of cognitively stimulating activities in late life was associated with a significantly reduced risk of incident MCI

Specifically, participating in:

  • two activities in late life decreased MCI risk by 28%
  • three activities dropped the risk by 45%
  • four activities lowered the risk by 56%

They concluded that engaging in a higher number of mentally stimulating activities, especially after age 65 is associated with a decreased risk of MCI.

By keeping busy, these activities might help the elderly reduce depression and loneliness which also may be linked to acquiring dementia.   So don’t think you’re wasting your time—go ahead and have some fun, it might just be the ticket to better mental and emotional health.

From Neurology July 10, 2019, Janina Krell-Roesch et al
“Quantity and quality of mental activities and the risk of incident mild cognitive impairment”

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