Published on: January 29, 2012
by Clinton Memorial Hospital
People who regularly stimulate their brains with activities such as reading, writing and playing games appear to have lower levels of a protein that helps form the plaque found in brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a small study published online in Archives of Neurology.
The main study group was made up of 65 healthy adults whose average age was 76. All underwent positron emission tomography (PET) scans—a type of nuclear medicine imaging test that lets doctors see how well organs are functioning. The scan used a new type of radioactive compound that makes it possible to see beta-amyloid protein in the body.
Participants also were interviewed about various lifestyle practices, including how frequently they took part in mentally stimulating activities at different phases of their life from age 6 on.
Researchers compared results from these participants with those of 10 similarly aged people who had Alzheimer’s disease and 11 younger people, average age 24.5, who served as controls. They found that people who engaged in more cognitively stimulating activities—particularly in early- and mid-life—had lower beta-amyloid levels, even after accounting for factors such as age and years of education.
In fact, participants who reported the highest cognitive activity levels had beta-amyloid levels comparable to the younger study subjects, while those who reported the lowest levels of cognitive activity had beta-amyloid levels comparable to the people with diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers noted that Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, unlikely to have just a single cause. The tendency to engage in mentally stimulating activities is probably related to a variety of lifestyle practices that may lower Alzheimer’s risk, they said.
Still, the findings add to other research which has linked exercising the brain to lower Alzheimer’s disease risk and offer more insight into potential ways to affect the onset and progression of the disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, additional steps that may help lower Alzheimer’s disease risk include:
Picture Source: The Telegraph
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