Crossword puzzles and chess protect against dementia more than socializing

To prevent or delay the development of dementia associated with aging It is recommended to stay physically and intellectually active, but certain activities are especially beneficial for the brain of older adults and now research carried out by Monash University has shown that use the computer, do crossword puzzles and play chess helps more to avoid dementia than knitting, painting or socializing.

The results of the research have been published in JAMA Network Open and may help seniors and their caregivers plan more helpful strategies to reduce dementia risk. The researchers analyzed data from 10,318 Australians aged 70 and over who participated in the ASPREE project and ALSOP (ASPREE Longitudinal Study of Older Persons) substudy.

They found that individuals who regularly engaged in adult literacy tasks that fostered mental acuity, such as education classes, journal keeping, crossword puzzles or playing chess, were 9-11% less likely to develop dementia. than their peers. Creative hobbies, such as crafting, knitting and painting, and more passive activities, such as reading, reduced the risk by 7%.

“Active manipulation of previously stored knowledge may play a greater role in reducing dementia risk than more passive recreational activities”

By contrast, the size of a person’s social network and how often they went out to the movies or to a restaurant were not associated with reduced dementia risk. The results remained statistically significant, even when adjusted for prior education level and socioeconomic status. No significant variations were observed between men and women.

Strategies to prevent or delay dementia

Life expectancy is increasing and aging is a risk factor for developing dementia. In fact, by 2022 there were already around 55 million people with some form of dementia in the world, so as Joanne Ryan, associate professor at the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine and lead author, has pointed out, identifying strategies to preventing or delaying cognitive decline is a global priority.

“We had a unique opportunity to close a knowledge gap by investigating a wide range of lifestyle enrichment activities that older adults typically engage in, and assessing which of these were most strongly aligned with avoiding dementia,” Ryan said. .

“I think what our results tell us is that active manipulation of previously stored knowledge may play a greater role in reducing dementia risk than more passive recreational activities. Keeping the mind active and challenged can be particularly important.”

The leisure activities that the researchers evaluated included:

  • Adult literacy activities, such as adult education classes, using computers, or journaling.
  • Mental sharpness tasks such as completing quizzes and crossword puzzles, playing cards or chess.
  • Pursue creative hobbies such as woodworking, knitting, or painting.
  • Enjoying more passive activities like keeping up with the news, reading, or listening to music.
  • Carry out social networking activities, such as meeting and interacting with friends.
  • Take planned excursions such as going to a restaurant, a museum or the movies.

Professor Ryan explained that the results did not rule out that those who are naturally drawn to the kinds of leisure activities linked to cognitive health also had specific personality traits that would otherwise be beneficial, or that they might have done better overall. health behaviors.

“While engaging in literacy and mental sharpness activities may not be a magic pill to ward off dementia, if that were your goal and you had to choose, our research certainly suggests that these are the activities most likely to support a long-term good cognitive health“, said.

Ryan has argued that social relationships may also still be quite important for cognitive health and mental well-being, even if the study did not show a clear link to dementia risk. “Participants were cognitively healthy and probably already had socially active livesso the cognitive benefits of strong social networks may be less obvious in this group compared to the general public.”


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