Use it or lose it: Alzheimer's prevention advice

Reuters News
When it comes to avoiding Alzheimer's disease, the latest advice is--'It's your brain, use it or lose it.'

Keeping active outside work, especially with hobbies which involve mental stimulation, may help prevent Alzheimer's, according to a study presented here at the American Academy of Neurology's (AAN) 52nd Annual Meeting.

Researchers found that people who played a musical instrument, exercised, did cross word puzzles or jigsaws, played cards, board games, or similar activities, were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease later in life. "People who were less active were more than three times more likely to have Alzheimer's disease as compared to those who were more active," said study author Dr. Robert Friedland, in a statement issued by the AAN. Friedland is a neurologist at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals of Cleveland, Ohio.

Friedland and colleagues compared 193 people with Alzheimer's disease, (average age, 73) with 358 healthy people (average age, 71). The researchers collected data on 26 activities, some that were considered intellectual, such as reading, woodworking and knitting and others that were physical, such as playing racquetball or gardening. Other activities were considered to be essentially passive, such as watching television or attending religious services.

They found that Alzheimer's-free study subjects tended to engage in more physical or intellectual activities between the ages of 40 and 60 than people with the memory-robbing disorder. Engaging in passive activities had no protective effect.

This was true even after the researchers took into account other factors tat can influence Alzheimer's risk, such as age, income, gender and education. Although it is possible that people with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease were less likely to exercise or engage in intellectual pursuits because of their illness, the researchers think this is unlikely.

The study's findings suggest that increasing physical and intellectual activities may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, even in people in middle age, the authors conclude.

"A relative increase in the amount of time devoted to intellectual activities from early adulthood (ages 20 to 39) to mid-adulthood (ages 40 to 60) was associated with a significant decrease in the probability of having Alzheimer's disease later in life," said Friedland