Physical and mental activities can help reduce the risk of dementia

According to a new study published in the July 27, 2022 online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study looked at the effects of these activities, as well as mental activities and the use of electronic devices in people with or without a higher genetic risk for dementia.

Many studies have identified potential risk factors for dementia, but we wanted to learn more about a wide variety of lifestyle habits and their potential role in preventing dementia. Our study found that exercise, household chores, and social visits were linked to a reduced risk of various types of dementia.”

Huan Song, MD, PhD, study author, Sichuan University in Chengdu, China

The study involved 501,376 people from a UK database without dementia with an average age of 56.

Participants completed questionnaires at the start of the study, including one on physical activity. They were asked how often they participated in activities such as climbing stairs, walking and participating in strenuous sports. They were also asked about household chores, work-related activities and the type of transportation they used, including walking or cycling to work.

Participants completed another questionnaire on mental activities. They were asked about their level of education, whether they attend adult education classes, how often they visit friends and family, visit pubs or social clubs or religious groups, and how often they use electronic devices such as playing computer games, watching television and talking on the phone.

Additionally, participants indicated whether they had any immediate family members with dementia. This helped researchers determine if they had a genetic risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Study participants were followed for an average of 11 years. By the end of the study, 5,185 people had developed dementia.

After adjusting for multiple factors such as age, income and smoking, the researchers found that most of the physical and mental activities studied had links to dementia risk. Importantly, the results hold after accounting for the strong correlations and interactions of these activities. People highly engaged in activity patterns, including frequent exercise, household chores, and daily visits from family and friends, had a 35%, 21%, and 15% lower risk of dementia, respectively, compared to people who were least engaged in these activities. patterns.

The researchers also looked at the incidence rates of dementia according to the activity patterns identified. The rate in people who exercised frequently was 0.45 cases per 1,000 person-years, compared with 1.59 for people who exercised infrequently. Person-years take into account the number of people participating in a study as well as the time spent on the study. Those who frequently performed household chores had a rate of 0.86 cases per 1,000 person-years, compared to 1.02 for people who rarely performed household chores. People who visited family daily had a rate of 0.62 cases per 1,000 person-years, compared to 0.8 cases for those who only visited friends and family once every few months .

“Our study found that by engaging in healthy physical and mental activities more frequently, people can reduce their risk of dementia,” Song said. “Further research is needed to confirm our findings. However, our results are encouraging and show that these simple lifestyle changes can be beneficial.”

Researchers found that all participants benefited from the protective effect of physical and mental activities, whether or not they had a family history of dementia.

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

The study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, West China Hospital, Sichuan University and the National Geriatrics Clinical Research Center.


Journal reference:

Zhu, J. et al. (2022) Physical and mental activity, disease susceptibility and dementia risk. Neurology.

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