Chores and friendly social visits can lower risk

person who gardensShare on Pinterest
A new study suggests that doing household chores is associated with a lower risk of dementia. Image credit: alyfromuk2us/Getty Images.
  • Researchers examined the effects of different types of physical and mental activity on dementia risk.
  • They found that activities such as frequent exercise, household chores, and daily visits to family and friends reduce the likelihood of developing dementia, regardless of genetic risk.
  • They concluded that physical and mental activity could be an effective way to prevent dementia.

About 55 million people worldwide live with dementia and there are almost 10 million new cases every year.

Previous studies have identified several potential risk factors for the condition, including:

  • Educational attainment
  • to smoke
  • obesity
  • alcohol use
  • hypertension
  • hearing impairment
  • depression
  • diabetes mellitus.

A increasing body of evidence also shows that maintaining physical activity in middle age and beyond can help maintain cognitive capacity and prevent dementia.

However, what types and intensities of physical activity maintain cognitive capacity and most effectively prevent dementia remains unknown.

Recently, researchers have examined the effects of various forms of physical and mental activity on dementia risk.

They found that activities such as frequent exercise, household chores, and daily visits to family and friends lowered the risk of dementia.

The study appears in Neurology.

For the study, the researchers analyzed health data from 501,376 participants in the British biobank cohort. The participants were on average 56.5 years old at the time of recruitment and were followed for an average of 10.7 years.

At the start of the study, participants completed questionnaires indicating their physical activity — such as household activities and transportation — and mental activity, including using electronic devices, social contact, and attending adult education classes.

The researchers also examined the participants’ genetic risk factors for developing dementia in addition to their family history of the condition.

During the follow-up period, 5,185 participants developed dementia. Of these, the researchers reported that those most likely to develop dementia tended to be older, male, had a history of hypertension or hyperlipidemia, and had lower socioeconomic status and a higher body mass index (BMI).

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that more frequent involvement in physical and mental activity was associated with lower rates of dementia.

Those most engaged in frequent exercise, household chores, and daily visits from friends and family had a 35%, 21%, and 15% lower risk of dementia compared to those least involved in these activities.

The researchers further found that physical and mental activity protected against dementia in all participants, regardless of their genetic risk or family history of the condition.

They also found that going to the pub or social club and watching TV were linked to a higher risk of dementia.

The researchers noted that while the underlying mechanisms linking physical activity and a reduced risk of dementia remain unknown, there are several possible explanations.

They wrote that regularly aerobic exercise could improve cerebral blood flow, reducing age-related cognitive decline, and that exercise has antioxidant effectswhich can slow oxidative damage in the brain.

They added that exercise can influence other modifiable factors for cognitive function, including:

  • obesity
  • hypertension
  • insulin resistance
  • depression
  • cardiovascular condition.

When asked how physical and mental activities, including learning, exercising and socializing, can reduce the risk of dementia, Prof. dr. Gill Livingstonprofessor of psychiatry of the elderly at University College London said: Medical news today that they can increase cognitive reserve – the brain’s resistance to structural damage from processes such as aging.

To the same question, dr. Dorina Cadarsenior lecturer in cognitive epidemiology and dementia at the University of Sussex, not involved in the study, told MNT:

“New evidence shows that you can grow new brain cells – the building blocks of our thinking ability – until later in life. It is really important to regularly feed the brain with new information and store this new content information in our brain. That could be by simply reading a book, reading a magazine or listening to a podcast.”

“In this way we add layers of knowledge and emotions. So when we talk about ‘use it or lose it, we now know that these cells can be worked out and kept busy whether you’re in your 40s, 60s, 70s or older,” she added.

She continued to note that social interaction, a sense of belonging to a group, and friends with common interests are key to psychological well-being and mental resilience.

“There is some evidence that the lack of social connections can harm a person’s health as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Social isolation and loneliness are one of the key health and social care challenges of the 21st century, increasing the risk of death by nearly 30 percent,” she said.

“Half a million elderly people in the [United Kingdom] do not see or speak to anyone for more than 6 days a week. That has huge implications for individual mental health and the subsequent risk of dementia,” she explains.

The researchers concluded that frequent mental and physical activity may be effective interventions to prevent dementia.

When asked about the study’s limitations, Dr. Livingston notes that while the UK Biobank has “excellent, detailed data”, it comes disproportionately from a high-income, healthy population with few minority groups, and so may not be fully representative.

She further noted that the cohort was also relatively young, as the average age for developing dementia is about 80 years old.

dr. Cadar added that the study did not accurately diagnose dementia subtypes and that mental activities could have been examined in more detail.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.