Not only is dementia terrifying and heartbreaking, it’s pretty common. In fact, 14% of Canadians over the age of sixty-five suffer from it. So, how to avoid this fate?
It’s not a sure-fire thing, but a new study in JAMA Neurology suggests that intellectual curiosity can help stave off dementia. Researchers enrolled 1,500 elderly people in their study; 27% of them had the gene variant APOE4, known to be connected to dementia. When they enrolled in the study, they told researchers the amount of formal education they’d attained, their job, and any cognitive activities in which they regularly engaged. Cognitive activities include reading, playing games, playing music, or crafting. Researchers also put subjects through a battery of tests, including their level of language mastery, executive functioning, and memory.
Researchers found that intellectual engagement had real, measurable impact on dementia. Specifically, people with higher education can stave off dementia an average of five years longer than people without. Furthermore, picking up intellectual hobbies later in life can help too; it’s much better to keep it up from early adulthood, but if you skipped college and are nearing midlife, picking up something like bridge can help you stay sharp.
According to lead author Prashanthi Vemuri, “Although the optimal intervention time may be intellectual enrichment in early life, there are substantial benefits of using a public health campaign by providing intellectual enrichment to midlife to late-life individuals.”