Dementia can trigger a range of problems, from memory loss to difficulties carrying out daily activities. Although there’s no cure for dementia at present, if it’s diagnosed in the early stages, there are things that can be done to slow it down and maintain mental function.
But even better than diagnosing dementia early is doing what you can to prevent it.
A study published in 2014 found reading books and magazines, no matter your age, can help to keep memory and thinking skills intact.
Study author Robert S. Wilson, at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, said: “Out 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.”
As part of the study, researchers looked closely at 294 elderly men and women, most in their 80s.
READ MORE: Dementia care: How much water should you drink a day to prevent the condition?
They were given tests of memory and thinking every years in the last years of their lives.
The participants also completed questionnaires about how often they engaged in mentally stimulating tasks, such as reading books, visiting a library or writing letters.
They were asked how frequently they participated in these activities during their childhood, in young adulthood, in middle age and as seniors in their current lives.
After they died, at an average of 89, their brains were examined for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, including the brain plaques and tangles of Alzheimer’s disease.
It was found people who participated in mentally challenging activities most often, both early and late in life, had a slower rate of decline in memory compared to those who did not engage in such activities.
Even when people had plaques and tangles and other signs of damage to their brains, mental stimulation seemed to help protect memory and thinking skills, accounting for around 14 percent of the difference in decline beyond what would be expected.
Dr Wilson said: “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.”
Other ways to reduce your risk of dementia
While getting older is undeniably the biggest risk factor for dementia, research suggests up to one in three cases of dementia are preventable.