Want to slow down, or possibly prevent, age-related memory loss? A new study in the journal Neurology suggests that certain daily activities may do the trick.
Researchers found that mentally stimulating activities were associated with a much lower risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Mild cognitive impairment is a condition characterized by slight thinking and memory problems.
And the activities might not be what you’d think.
Crafting and Computer Use Linked With Lowest Risk of Memory Problems
Crafting and using a computer were the two most effective activities at staving off mild cognitive impairment. The more activities people engaged in during middle- and later life, the less likely they were to develop memory and thinking issues.
According to the study, using a computer in middle-age was linked to a 48 percent lower risk of MCI. Using a computer later in life was associated with a 30 percent lower risk.
Engaging in crafting activities later in life, but not in middle age, was associated with a 42 percent lower risk of mild cognitive impairment.
Lifestyle Activities May Offer Cost-Effective Way to Delay Brain Aging
“There are currently no drugs that effectively treat mild cognitive impairment, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, so there is growing interest in lifestyle factors that may help slow brain aging believed to contribute to thinking and memory problems — factors that are low cost and available to anyone,” said study author Yonas E. Geda, MD, MSc, of the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
“Our study took a close look at how often people participated in mentally stimulating activities in both middle-age and later life, with a goal of examining when such activities may be most beneficial to the brain.”
Crosswords and Socializing Also Appear to Benefit the Brain
For the study, the researchers looked at 2,000 people, average age 78, who did not have mild cognitive impairment. They were asked how often they took part in five types of mentally stimulating activities during middle age (50-65) and later in life (66+). The activities were computer use, socializing, crafting, reading, and mind games like puzzles and crosswords.
Participants were given memory tests every 15 months and were followed for an average of five years.
Engaging in social activities like going to the movies or spending time with friends during mid- and later life was associated with a 20 percent lower risk of MCI, as was playing games like crosswords or card games.
Those who participated in four activities in later life had the least chance of memory issues – a 56 percent lower risk.
The researchers acknowledge that this type of observational study does have its limitations and doesn’t necessarily equate to cause and effect. “It is important to point out that while we found links between a lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and various mentally stimulating activities, it is possible that instead of the activities lowering a person’s risk, a person with mild cognitive impairment may not be able to participate in these activities as often,” Geda said. “More research is needed to further investigate our findings.”
Regardless, keeping your mind active and agile through mentally stimulating activities will never hurt, and may just provide protection against memory loss.