Staying both physically and mentally active in midlife seems to protect your brain decades later, according to a new study out today in Neurology.
The study, which is being praised for its considerable duration, involved 800 Swedish women with an average age of 47 who were followed for 44 years. At the start of the study, participants completed a detailed questionnaire about their daily activities, from hobbies to theater outings to housework and exercise. They were then given either a high or a low score in two areas: mental and physical activity.
The results? Women assigned to the high level of mental activity were 46 percent less likely to have developed Alzheimer’s disease and 34 percent less likely to have developed dementia overall than the women in the low activity group. The women who were more physically active were 52 percent less likely to have developed a type of dementia associated with cerebrovascular disease and 56 percent less likely to have developed more general dementia than the women in the group deemed less physically active.
Physician and study author Jenna Najar of the Institute for Neuroscience and Physiology at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden recognized that “one important limitation” of the work “is that the activities were only assessed at the beginning of the study, and all participants were Swedish women, which makes it difficult to generalize the results to other populations in the world.”