We all want to stay active and alert
The Short Version
As adults grow older, they face the risk of reduced mental acuity and even dementia. However, researched published Monday in the JAMA Neurology journal indicates that simple activities help avoid some of the worst aspects of mental deterioration without the use of expensive gadgets or treatment.
A Little More Detail
While I won’t speak for anyone else, my greatest fear of growing old stems from the possibility of losing my mental awareness to some form of dementia. My grandfather had Alzheimer’s and I remember far too well how devastating that was for everyone. I don’t want to put myself or my family in that situation. I don’t know anyone who wants their final days to be spent in such confusion.
Unfortunately, to date, many of the programs designed to ward off the mental health issues that accompany aging have been on the expensive side, some involving experimental appliances that insurance wouldn’t cover and medicines with some not-so-nice side effects. We haven’t had a lot of choices outside the woo-community’s herbal solutions, which are no solutions at all.
However, a study published Monday n the JAMA Neurology journal gives us some hope. Doing just normal things, the low-level type of activities that many of us are already doing, help to stave off some of the more devastating effects of dementia even past the age of 70, when those problems tend to start presenting themselves more heavily.
What kind of activities are we talking about here? Five areas were specifically studied: computer use; making crafts; playing games including chess or bridge; going to movies or other types of socializing, and reading books. 2,000 adults aged 70 to 93 without any memory problems participated. They were tested for the condition in mental exams at the beginning and every 15 months for about four years.
All of the activities listed worked in providing some level of protection except reading. Why not reading? Apparently, page turning doesn’t provide enough physical activity and promotes isolation. All the other studied areas provided 20-30 percent less likelihood of developing dementia.
What does that mean? Staying active, even if it seems minimal, is better than doing nothing at all. While they weren’t specifically studied, activities such as talking on the phone, going to church, or going shopping would likely have similar protections. The worst thing any of us can do is to stay in and let our brains melt. They need both physical and mental stimulation to survive.
We can’t keep ourselves from growing older, but we can slow down some of the effects.