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Socializing Can Lead to Lower Risk of Alzheimer's and Dementia

A new study published in the September 2008 issue of Alzheimer's and Dementia found that mental and social activities during midlife may reduce men's risk of dementia by 26 percent.

This recent study followed up on the Duke Twins Study of Memory and Aging that began back in 1967. It followed 147 pairs of male twins for 15 years. All of the participants lived in community based nursing homes throughout the U.S. and were well-matched in terms of education, medical history and income.

Each participant completed a questionnaire that surveyed their participation in 13 physical and leisure activities. At that time their mean age was 45. In the 15 years that followed, 37 twins developed dementia.

Building on the Duke study, researchers from the John's Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health screened and evaluated the participants 28 years later. Their goal was to confirm what previous animal studies had indicated that cognitive and social activities could enhance the creation of new brain cells and aid in cell repair.

To do that, researchers analyzed the participant's intermediate activities (watching television, listening to the radio, going to the movies), novel activities (reading, studying) and intermediate novel activities (family activities, visiting with friends, attending parties).

They found that intermediate novel activities were associated with the largest decrease in dementia risk. Novel activities showed a smaller, but still significant, decrease in risk.

A similar twin study, following females rather than males, also found a connection between cognitive activities and dementia.

Neuro-degenerative diseases are crippling in many ways and often rob both victims and families of precious years. That's why these results may be cause for hope for many around the world. The findings add to a growing body of evidence that link social activities to a reduction of Alzheimer's and dementia risk.
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