A new Mayo Clinic study found that engaging in cognitive activities like reading books, playing games or crafting in middle age or later life are associated with a decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a transitional state between normal aging and the earliest features of Alzheimer's disease.
"This study is exciting because it demonstrates that aging does not need to be a passive process," says Yonas Geda, M.D., a Mayo Clinic neurospsychiatrist and author of this study. "By simply engaging in cognitive exercise, you can protect against future memory loss."
As part of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, Dr. Geda and his colleagues identified more than 1,300 people between the ages of 70 and 89. Of those, 197 individuals had mild cognitive impairment and 1,124 were cognitively normal. Both groups answered questions about their activities within the past year and when they were between 50 and 65 years old.
The study found that reading books, playing games, participating in computer activities and crafting led to a 30 to 50 percent decrease in the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment. People who watched television for less than seven hours a day in later years were 50 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who watched more than seven hours of television per day. Additionally, individuals who participated in social activities and read magazines during middle age were about 40 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who did not participate in those activities.