Mental Exercises Beneficial As Alzheimer’s Prevention

According to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, national studies have found that education plays a key role in lifelong memory performance and risk for dementia.  Those with a college degree possess a cognitive advantage over their less educated counterparts in middle and old age.

Researchers admit that the lifelong benefits of higher education for memory in later life are quite impressive, but do not clearly understand how and why these effects last so long.  Their new findings point out that education early in adulthood does not appear to be the only route to maintain your memory. 

The study found that intellectual activities undertaken regularly made a difference. Among individuals with low education, those who engaged in reading, writing, attending lectures, doing word games or puzzles once or week or more had memory scores similar to people with more education.

The study, called Midlife in the United States, assessed 3,343 men and women between the ages of 32 and 84 with a mean age of 56 years. Almost 40 percent of the participants had at least a 4-year college degree. The researchers evaluated how the participants performed in two cognitive areas, verbal memory and executive function-brain processes involved in planning, abstract thinking and cognitive flexibility. Participants were given a battery of tests, including tests of verbal fluency, word recall, and backward counting.

Those with higher education said they engaged in cognitive activities more often and also did better on the memory tests, but some with lower education also did well.  Researchers note that the findings are promising because they suggest there may be ways to level the playing field for those with lower educational achievement, and protect those at greatest risk for memory declines.   The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging.

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