Chores and friendly social visits can reduce risk

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A new study suggests that doing household chores is associated with a lower risk of dementia. Credit: alyfromuk2us/Getty Images.
  • Researchers looked at the effects of different types of physical and mental activity on dementia risk.
  • They found that activities such as frequent exercise, housework, and daily visits to family and friends reduced the likelihood of developing dementia, regardless of genetic risk.
  • They concluded that physical and mental activity could be an effective way to prevent dementia.

Above 55 million People live with dementia worldwide and there are almost 10 million new cases every year.

Previous studies have identified several potential risk factors for the condition, including:

  • level of education
  • Smoking
  • obesity
  • alcohol consumption
  • hypertension
  • hard of hearing
  • depression
  • Diabetes.

A increasingly Much evidence also shows that maintaining physical activity in midlife and beyond can help maintain cognitive ability and prevent dementia.

However, which types and intensities of physical activity maintain cognitive performance and are most effective in preventing dementia remains unknown.

Recently, researchers looked at the effects of different forms of physical and mental activity on the risk of dementia.

They found that activities such as frequent exercise, housework, and daily visits to family and friends reduced the risk of dementia.

The study appears in neurology.

For the study, the researchers analyzed health data from 501,376 participants in the UK biobank cohort. Participants had an average age of 56.5 years at recruitment and were followed for an average of 10.7 years.

At the start of the study, participants filled out questionnaires detailing their physical activity — such as housework and transportation — and mental activity, including use of electronic devices, socializing, and attending adult education classes.

In addition to their family history, the researchers also examined the participants’ genetic risk factors for developing dementia.

During the follow-up period, 5,185 participants developed dementia. Of these, the researchers reported that those most likely to develop dementia tended to be older and male, had a history of high blood pressure or hyperlipidemia, and had lower socioeconomic status and higher body mass index (BMI).

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that more physical and mental activity was associated with lower rates of dementia.

Those most engaged in frequent exercise, housework, and daily visits from friends and family had a 35%, 21%, and 15% lower risk of dementia than those least engaged in these activities.

The researchers further found that physical and mental activity protected against dementia in all participants, regardless of their genetic risk or family history of the condition.

They also found that going to the pub or social club and watching television were associated with a higher risk of dementia.

The researchers noted that while the underlying mechanisms linking physical activity and a reduced risk of dementia remain unknown, there are several possible explanations.

They wrote that regularly aerobic exercise could improve cerebral blood flow, thus reducing age-related cognitive decline, and that has exercise antioxidant effectswhich can delay oxidative damage in the brain.

They added that exercise may affect other modifiable factors in cognitive function, including:

  • obesity
  • hypertension
  • insulin resistance
  • depression
  • cardiovascular fitness.

When asked how physical and mental activity, including study, sport and socializing, can reduce the risk of dementia, Prof Gill Livingston, Professor of Psychiatry of the Elderly at University College London, responded Medical news today that they can increase cognitive reserve – the brain’s resilience to structural damage from processes such as aging.

Answering the same question, Dr. Dorina Cadar, Lecturer in Cognitive Epidemiology and Dementia at the University of Sussex, who was not involved in the study MNT:

“New evidence shows that you can grow new brain cells – the building blocks of our thinking skills – well into old age. It is really important to feed the brain with new information on a regular basis and to store this new content information in our brain. It can be as simple as reading a book, magazine or listening to a podcast.”

“In this way we add layers of knowledge and emotion. So when we refer to use it or lose it, we now know that these cells can be exercised and engaged whether you’re in your 40s, 60s, 70s or older,” she added.

She went on to find that social interaction, a sense of belonging to a group, and friends with common interests are key to psychological well-being and mental resilience.

“There is evidence that lack of social relationships can be as damaging to a person’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social isolation and loneliness represents one of the greatest health and social care challenges of the 21st century, increasing the risk of death by almost 30 percent,” she said.

“Half a million older people in the [United Kingdom] do not see or speak to anyone more than 6 days a week. This has enormous consequences for individual mental health and the subsequent risk of dementia,” she explained.

The researchers concluded that frequent mental and physical activity could be effective interventions in preventing dementia.

When asked about the study’s limitations, Dr. Livingston said that while the UK Biobank has “excellent, detailed data”, it comes disproportionately from a high-income, healthy, low-minority population and may not therefore be fully representative.

She further noted that the cohort was also relatively young, as the median age for developing dementia is around 80 years.

dr Cadar added that the study did not accurately diagnose subtypes of dementia and that mental activity could have been examined in more detail.

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