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Possible Factors that can Reduce Effects of Decline and Dementia in the Old-Age (Part 1)

Introduction

The most well-known factors that influence the outbreak of Alzheimer’s Disease are age and genetics, two factors that are well beyond our control. However, scientists are exploring other risk factors that may be able to influence cognitive decline and dementia in the old age. Factors such as exercise and diet, as well as different medical and mental conditions, are being found to influence risk in this area as well.

For instance, depression is being examined for its possible role in age-related cognitive decline through scientific research. Such decline may be lessened through engagement in intellectually stimulating activities through one’s life. In some people, the buildup of one’s brain can compensate for the toxic amyloid buildup that leads to Alzheimer’s. In this first article of a two part series, we will look at couple studies on the effect of cognitive activity. In the second article, we will look at the impact of physical activity and cardiovascular risk factors.

Cognitive Activity

Study 1 (Mental Stimulation leading to better Cognitive Health in Later Years)

Through a study at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, it was shown that continual engagement in intellectually stimulating activities had cognitive benefits in older people. In this study, 1000 senior people, whom were all free of dementia prior, were evaluated cognitively for an average of 5 years. In these evaluations, scientists check for each participant’s cognitive performance, as well as their level of engagement in mentally stimulating activities. Such activities include writing letters, playing strategy based games (chess, checkers, etc), and reading the newspaper. Those who displayed high levels of cognitive activity in a given year, also reported better cognitive performance in later years.

Holter Monitor

Study 2 (Benefits of Cognitive Activity on Plaque Formation)

Another study at the University of California, Berkeley, assessed how continual cognitive activity throughout one’s life impacts beta-amyloid accumulated in the brain in later years. Using positron emission tomography scans, researched measured beta-amyloid levels in the brains of 65 volunteers of around the age of 76, whom were had normal cognitive levels. These scans were completed using Pittsburgh Compound B, a chemical which binds to amyloid in the brain. The volunteers also reported how often they engaged in intellectually stimulated activities presently, as well as during the ages of 6, 12, 18, and 40.


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