Certain intellectually stimulating leisure activities reduce the risk of dementia, a study found.
Women, but not men, who read the newspaper regularly are 35 percent less at risk of dementia than the rest of the population.
However, men are 36 percent less at risk of dementia if they regularly use a mobile phone. The same protection has not been seen for women.
The analysis also found that married people who engage in a pastime or hobby have a 30 percent lower risk of dementia.
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The researchers examined 13 leisure activities and their impact on the risk of dementia – six were classified as “intellectual” and seven as “social”. Using cell phones and reading the newspaper was found to be statistically significant in reducing the risk of dementia
Men over 50 are 36 percent less at risk of dementia if they regularly use a mobile phone. The same protection was not seen for women (camp)
The thirteen activities
- Read newspapers;
- have a hobby or pastime;
- with a mobile phone;
- via the Internet or by email;
- Participation in art or music groups;
- cultural engagement;
- Membership in sports clubs;
- church groups;
- look after others (e.g. grandchildren);
- Belonging to a political or trade union group, a neighborhood group, an environmental group or another organization;
- Commitment to non-profit associations and / or volunteer work;
- Belonging to a social club and / or meeting friends;
- Vacation in the UK, vacation abroad and / or day trips
The study’s lead author, Pamela Almeida-Meza, a PhD student at UCL, told MailOnline: “In the fight against dementia, it is known that certain modifiable risk factors such as cardiovascular health and depression management are essential for prevention.
‘However, our new findings help us to give our brain the additional ability to tolerate damage while at the same time maintaining function by choosing a comfortable lifestyle.
“Most importantly, our research was conducted on people aged 50 and over. This shows that it is never too late to finish this book, revisit our hobbies, or even practice a new skill.”
The researchers examined the role of a range of activities in dementia risk by tracking more than 8,000 over-50s for up to 15 years.
They looked at 13 leisure activities and their impact – six were rated “intellectual” and included hobbies, reading the newspaper, using a cell phone and being online.
Seven were considered “social” and included things like joining a sports club, going on vacation, socializing, and volunteering.
The majority of participants (70 percent) stated that they regularly carry out between two and four intellectual activities.
Only three percent of participants said they did not engage in intellectual recreational activities, and four percent said they had done all six activities.
Ms. Almeida-Meza said that more activity increases a person’s protection. With every additional activity, the risk of dementia decreased by nine percent.
The analysis showed that married people who take part in a pastime or hobby have a 30 percent lower risk of dementia (see figure).
Men are 36% less likely to develop dementia if they regularly use a mobile phone. However, women do not receive any protection
Women receive 35% protection from dementia if they are regular newspaper readers – the same link was not seen in men
Genetic treatment extends the lifespan of flies by 9% and wards off Alzheimer’s
A genetic treatment has been developed that causes fruit flies to live up to nine percent longer.
Two therapies have been developed, each targeting a protein, and both have been found to ward off signs of Alzheimer’s as well.
UCL researchers modified the genetics of fruit flies – a common laboratory animal – with additional pieces of DNA inserted into their genome.
These changes are specifically designed to encourage the expression of genes that are responsible for the production of two proteins.
These proteins, called Forkhead (FKH) and Forkhead-Box-O (FOXO), in turn act on neurons and glial cells in the brain.
The overexpression of FOXO leads to a “significantly increased healthy lifespan” of 8.8 percent.
In the neuron-targeted FKH, overexpression extended healthy lifespan by 6.6 percent.
No statistically significant protective effect against dementia was found in any of the social activities when all confusing variables were taken into account.
However, it was found that reading the newspaper and using a cell phone reduced the risk by 21 and 20 percent, respectively.
Other activities were found to have a greater reduced risk, such as volunteering once a year. However, the researchers found that this is not statistically significant and therefore more random than an indication of a relationship.
When the data on reading the newspaper and making phone calls was stratified by gender, the researchers found a clear gender divide.
Men who read the newspaper are not protected from dementia, while women are. However, men receive similar protection from using a cell phone, which makes no difference to a woman’s risk of dementia.
The researchers divided all thirteen activities into four categories, with each model taking more variables into account.
The first just offset all gender differences and marital status, the second also included education and wealth, the third added a history of mental and physical health, and the fourth and final model was all of the above with the addition of lifestyle behavior.
Through this breakdown, the researchers were able to determine that a married person who has a hobby will be protected from dementia by engaging in a pastime.
This was not the case with single, divorced, or widowed hobbyists.
The full results will be published in the Journal of Alzheimer Disease.