Study suggests staying active throughout middle age may reduce risk of dementia later

Staying active in middle age may be an effective way to reduce risk of developing dementia decades later, according to a new study that tracked outcomes in a group of people for more than 40 years.

While we still don’t have concrete answers as to why dementia develops and how to prevent it, research is converging on ways to decrease its likelihood. At the top of the list – activity, both physical and mental. The latest study underscores that finding by showing how a range of activities correlated with decreased risk of three types of dementia.

The study tracked 800 women, average age 47, for 44 years.  At the start of the study the participants were given scores of one to 10 to benchmark their mental activity levels. These activities included playing musical instruments, reading, attending concerts, artistic activities, and attending clubs or religious services. The more they participated, the higher their scores.

For physical activity, the researchers divided the participants into active and inactive groups. “Active” included anything from light physical activity (e.g. gardening, bowling, biking) for four hours a week, up to intense activities like running, swimming and aerobics several times a week.

During the study period, 194 of the 800 women developed dementia. Most developed Alzheimer’s disease, others developed vascular dementia or “mixed dementia” in which more than one type of dementia is present.

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