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4 Activities To Reduce Risk Of Dementia

Medical Daily logo Medical Daily 6/6/2018 Sadhana Bharanidharan

© Dougal Waters/Getty Images A new study from Hong Kong highlighted reading as one of the intellectual activities linked to a significantly reduced risk of developing dementia.

While genetics play a role, making a few lifestyle changes and addressing preventable factors can also help in delaying the onset of dementia. The disease is not a normal part of the aging process and commonly causes the symptom of memory loss. 

While there is no cure, research has found some activities might help in reducing the risk of dementia:

1. Reading

A new study from Hong Kong examined 15,582 participants at age 65 and older who were free of dementia. After being followed for several years, a significantly reduced risk of dementia was observed in those who engaged in intellectual activities like reading. The researchers speculated reading slowed the onset of clinical dementia by improving cognitive reserve

In a previous research from Stanford, literary scholar Natalie Phillips explained "it's not only what we read — but thinking rigorously about it that's of value, and that literary study provides a truly valuable exercise of people's brains."

2. Socializing

Even when doing something as simple as placing an order at the coffee shop, our brain needs to read the other person, think about what to say, and figure out how to respond if something unexpected happens. In other words, it serves as a form of exercise for your brain.

"Socializing relieves stress, and there’s a huge connection between stress and problems with the brain as we get older," said Bryan James from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago.

He emphasized how the human brain is evolved to know about 150 people, so constantly interacting with only one or two people can increase stress.

3. Learn something new

Brain plasticity — the ability to change structure or function in a sustained manner to respond to external stimulation — can be maintained to a limited degree by challenging oneself. This could include anything like learning a new instrument, picking up a language, or even trying to find a place by following a map.

A study from 2014 compared people who learned new skills to people who performed activities that were not very mentally challenging. The former had more significant gains in memory when followed up after a year. Memory was improved the most in older adults who took up learning digital photography and Photoshop.

4. Physical activity

One should not forget about moving their actual body amidst all the talk about mental exercise. Combined, obesity and high blood pressure may contribute to more than 12 percent of dementia cases. In addition, recent research has shown the thinning of brain structures may be linked to sitting too much.

To add some mental stimulation into physical exercise, dancing has also been suggested by researchers to reduce the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer's. The activity requires coordination and communication between a group of cells in the brain known as the basal ganglia.

"Both the basal ganglia and the cerebellum are key components in memory, habit, and movement. They both also are put to work in dance learning and execution," said Samira Shuruk, a professional dancer who is certified by the American Council on Exercise.

Gallery: 7 learning projects that will keep your brain sharp (courtesy Prevention)

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