You can’t prevent getting old, but you can slow down or stop age-related memory loss through mentally stimulating activities, according to new research.
A study published in the medical journal Neurology found that interacting with mentally stimulating activities like computer use, crafts, playing games, and just partaking in social activities can either lower or completely stop memory loss called mild cognitive impairment.
Researchers had 2,000 people participate in the study. The average age of participants was 78 and they didn’t have mild cognitive impairment — also known as MCI. Each participant took part in a questionnaire that asked them about mentally stimulating activities that they did during the middle of their life between ages 50 to 65. They were also asked about similar patterns but after age 66.
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Respondents were also administered thinking and memory tests about every year and a half and were followed for an average of five years.
Out of the 2,000 participants, 532 developed MCI, but researchers say those who did mentally stimulating activities had a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment.
Here’s the breakdown of each activity:
- Craft activities — 42% lower risk
- Using the computer — 37% lower risk (later life)/30%
- Playing games (like crosswords or playing cards) — 20% lower risk
- Going out with friends — 20% lower risk
Mild cognitive impairment — or MCI — is a medical condition that comes with aging. While it’s not dementia, it’s often linked to people who suffer from thinking or memory. MCI makes it difficult for people to do harder tasks and it’s often been considered to come before dementia.
“There are currently no drugs that effectively treat mild cognitive impairment, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, so there is growing interest in lifestyle factors that may help slow brain aging believed to contribute to thinking and memory problems–factors that are low cost and available to anyone,” said study author Yonas E. Geda, MD, MSc. “Our study took a close look at how often people participated in mentally stimulating activities in both middle-age and later life, with a goal of examining when such activities may be most beneficial to the brain.”