Keeping The Brain Busy Can Help Stave Off Alzheimer’s

Playing chess, reading newspapers and engaging the brain in other tasks can significantly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in later life, according to a study.

The finding emerged from five years of tests on more than 700 volunteers with an average age of 80, which revealed that people who kept their brains most active were 2.6 times less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than those who received little or no mental stimulation.

The research, published yesterday in the online version of the journal Neurology, adds weight to previous studies highlighting the benefits of cognitive activity such as sudoku in maintaining brain function. Other studies have suggested that keeping socially engaged and eating a Mediterranean diet also help prevent the disorder.

In the latest research, participants were given mental ability tests each year. By the end of the study – the Rush Memory and Ageing Project – 90 volunteers had developed Alzheimer’s disease.

The link between mental stimulation and delayed onset of Alzheimer’s remained after the scientists, led by Robert Wilson at Rush University medical centre in Chicago, took into account factors such as the person’s socioeconomic status, social and physical activity and past cognitive activity.

Researchers at the Bloomberg school of public health in Maryland have reported that a global epidemic of Alzheimer’s disease could emerge by 2050.