Picking up a book or magazine, going for a walk, watching a movie, or visiting friends or relatives may help reduce your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. New research shows reading and engaging in leisure activities may reduce the risk or delay onset of clinical manifestations of dementia. This is according to the study published in the journal Neurology.
The study conducted by investigators at Columbia University in New York, demonstrated the benefits of leisure activities as an independent factor in reducing the risk of dementia among people of any education or occupational level. Study participants included 1,772 people age 65 or older, who were determined to be non-demented at the time of baseline assessment. They were evaluated over a period seven years.
Clinical data was gathered at an initial assessment, and subjects were categorized according to age, ethnicity, education level, and occupation. They then reported their participation in 13 common leisure activities categorized as intellectual, physical, and social pursuits.
“Even when controlling for factors like ethnic group, education and occupation, subjects with high leisure activity had 38 percent less risk of developing dementia,” according to study author Yaakov Stern, PhD.
Interestingly, the study also showed that participation in leisure activities may have a cumulative effect. The researchers discovered an additional 8 percent risk reduction for developing Alzheimer’s with each leisure activity the subjects had participated. All three activity categories were shown to be beneficial, although the intellectual activities were associated with highest risk reduction.
For baseline clinical data, a physician surveyed each subject’s medical and neurological history, and conducted a physical and neurological examination. All subjects also received neuropsychological testing. The evaluation was repeated at each follow-up event, at which it was determined whether or not participants became demented.
“Our study suggests that aspects of life experience supply a set of skills or repertoires that allow an individual to cope with progressing Alzheimer’s disease pathology for a longer time before the disease becomes clinically apparent,” said Stern. “Maintaining intellectual and social engagement through participation in everyday activities seems to buffer healthy individuals against cognitive decline in later life.”