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Active Mind

Active Life, Healthy Mind

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Maintaining an active lifestyle, including not only daily exercise but also frequent social interactions and even performing household chores, can stave off dementia, according to the authors of a new study.

Investigators gathered data on more than 500,000 people without dementia from the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010 (mean age at recruitment = 56 years; 45.6% men). At recruitment, participants completed two questionnaires, one about physical activities, and one on mental activities. On the former, questions were wide-ranging, asking participants about mode of transportation to work, sports participation, and even mundane activities (e.g., climbing stairs, household chores). On the latter, participants explained education level and electronic device use, along with ordinary social engagement (e.g., visits to the pub, church group gatherings, simple visits with family).

The authors followed participants from one year after recruitment through 2019. During a mean follow-up of 10.66 years, they identified 5,185 dementia cases. After adjusting for several factors, including smoking status, age, and income, researchers noticed connections between physical and mental engagement and dementia risk. Participants who exercised frequently, engaged in regular household chores, and visited with friends and family daily were at 35%, 21%, and 15% lower risk of dementia, respectively, vs. those who were the least engaged in these areas.

Notably, participants reported their own activity, which means some could have omitted particular details or remembered certain activities incorrectly. Also, the authors noted everyone enjoyed the protective effects of mental and physical activity, regardless of family history of dementia. Still, the large cohort and robust, diverse questionnaires mean these results are promising.

“Many studies have identified potential risk factors for dementia, but we wanted to know more about a wide variety of lifestyle habits and their potential role in the prevention of dementia,” said study author Huan Song, MD, PhD, of Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. “Our study has found that by engaging more frequently in healthy physical and mental activities, people may reduce their risk of dementia. More research is needed to confirm our findings. However, our results are encouraging that making these simple lifestyle changes may be beneficial.”

For more on this and related subjects, be sure to read the latest issues of Neurology Alert.