Computer use, crosswords and games may help prevent dementia

According to a study conducted by Monash University and published in JAMA Network Open, certain activities have a stronger association with reducing the risk of dementia in older individuals compared to others. The study drew data from 10,318 Australians aged 70 and older who participated in the ASPREE project and the ALSOP sub-study.

The researchers found that engaging in activities that involve adult literacy and mental acuity tasks, such as education classes, crosswords, and keeping journals, was linked to a 9-11 percent lower risk of developing dementia. Creative hobbies like crafting, knitting, and painting, as well as more passive activities like reading, were associated with a 7 percent risk reduction. On the other hand, the size of one’s social network and the frequency of outings to places like the cinema or restaurant did not appear to have a significant impact on dementia risk.

These results remained statistically significant even when accounting for factors like education level and socioeconomic status. The study did not find significant differences in the risk reduction between men and women.

The senior author of the study, Associate Professor Joanne Ryan, emphasized the importance of identifying strategies to prevent or delay dementia, considering the global impact of the disease. She noted that actively engaging the mind through tasks that involve manipulating previously stored knowledge might play a crucial role in reducing dementia risk.

The leisure activities that were assessed in the study included adult literacy tasks, mental acuity tasks like crosswords and chess, creative hobbies like knitting and painting, passive activities like reading, and social activities like interacting with friends and planned excursions to places like restaurants or museums.

While the study suggests that engaging in activities related to adult literacy and mental challenges may support cognitive health, it does not rule out the possibility that individuals drawn to such activities might have other beneficial personality traits or healthier behaviors. Additionally, while social connection remains important for overall mental well-being, the study did not find a clear link between social networks and dementia risk in the group of cognitively healthy participants.

In conclusion, the research provides valuable insights into lifestyle enrichment activities that can be potentially beneficial in reducing the risk of dementia in older individuals, helping them and aged care professionals to plan targeted approaches for dementia risk reduction.

Source: Monash University

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