Stay Mentally Sharp As You Age

Want to stay sharp well into old age?  Never stop learning. That’s the takeaway from a new study that suggests a lifetime of giving your brain new information can delay the onset of dementia by up to nine years.

It’s been believed for some time that staying mentally active helps keep both dementia and Alzheimer’s at bay.  But according to a story from United Press International now there’s concrete evidence, thanks to researchers at the Mayo Clinic.

The new study, compared the cognitive histories of nearly 2,000 people aged 70 to 89, with their current mental capacity.

The researchers took into account factors such as level of education, complexity of occupation, as well as previous cognitive activities — both during midlife and more recently. Cognitive activities included things like playing music, reading books, working on computers, arts and crafts or even regular socializing.

Once all the info was collected, participants participated in a serious of tests to measure their cognitive functioning. As a result, researchers were able to show that mental stimulation throughout one’s life can delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Study author Prashanthi Vemuri at the Mayo clinic says “Doing cognitive activities at least three times a week was highly protective.”

Mentally stimulating activities during midlife had a particularly strong effect on people with less formal education.  But being educated also had a protective effect—staving off dementia for at least 5 years.

Dr. Vemuri points out that even if you didn’t have a formal education, intellectual activity in later life can really help — perhaps delaying cognitive impairment by at least 5 years.

I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.

Listen to today’s audio here.