What you are doing right now may help protect your memory. A new study finds that computer use — whether checking Facebook, sending emails or paying bills online — seems to be particularly effective for keeping your brain sharp. Playing cards or board games, reading magazines, knitting or painting, and chatting with friends are also good for your brain health.
The study of about 2,000 men and women age 70 and older participating in the long-running Mayo Clinic Study of Aging showed that those who used the computer at least once a week were 42 percent less likely to develop memory and thinking problems than those who rarely logged on.
Those who engaged in a variety of other activities were 23 percent less likely to develop memory problems than those who were less engaged in fewer activities.
“The results show the importance of keeping the mind active as we age,” said study author Janina Krell-Roesch, with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., who presented the study at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting this week in Vancouver, Canada.
Researchers followed the study participants for an average of four years and tested whether they developed mild cognitive impairment, a condition that is often — but not always — a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease. Here’s what they found:
At least once a week Reduced risk
Computer use 44 percent
Reading magazines 30 percent
Crafts (e.g., knitting) 16 percent
Playing games 14 percent
Ronald Petersen, M.D., director of the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and another study author, noted that even the men and women in the study who carry a gene that makes them more likely to get Alzheimer’s disease had a reduced risk of memory problems if they regularly used the computer and took part in social activities. (The other types of activities weren’t linked to a lower risk of memory problems for those with the gene.)