Engaging in brain stimulating activities from childhood through old age helps preserve memory and cognitive function, in a way that it can delay the onset of dementia, a new study finds.

Experts theorize that tasks that keep the brain active like reading books, writing letters and solving everyday problems seems to counteract the natural deterioration of brain tissue that happens as we get older.

“Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person’s lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for brain health in old age,” study author Robert S. Wilson, senior neuropsychologist of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

Link between lifelong exercise and memory loss assessed
In a bid to assess the link between brain stimulating activities and memory, the researchers conducted a study. They assessed 294 people from the Chicago area who were ages 55 and older for a period of six years.

The subjects included about 68 percent women, had 14 years of education while 37 percent exhibited mild thinking impairment at the onset of the study.

They furnished information about their reading, writing and other mentally stimulating activities for every part of their life, from childhood to adolescence, middle age and beyond. In addition, they underwent annual neurological exams to measure memory and thinking ability to determine if they developed any mental decline.

After their demise, the participants’ brains were examined for lesions, brain plaque and tangles, which are physical signs of dementia.

Revelations of the study
A comparison of the brain findings with the data they had collected revealed that mentally stimulating activities across all ages is important for brain health in old age.

It was noted that people who kept their minds active throughout their lives cut their rate of cognitive decline by 32 percent as opposed to those with average activity. Subjects who seldom engaged in mentally stimulating activities experienced a 48 percent faster decline than their actively reading and writing peers.

“Based on this, we shouldn’t underestimate the effects of everyday activities, such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents,” said Wilson.

Wilson’s study was recently published in the journal Neurology.

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