elderly people continue to enjoy a variety of leisure activities
as they age, from playing board games to taking long walks
outside. Leisure activities offer a chance to socialize, exercise,
and learn new games and hobbies. A recent study has shown
that these types of activities may offer more than daily enjoyment.
To determine the link between Alzheimer's disease/dementia
and leisure activities, the authors of the study, published
in the journal Neurology, examined almost 2,000 people
(65 years or older), all residing in northern Manhattan, New
York. Baseline mental health on neurologic examinations and
leisure-activity participation were assessed; the seniors
were followed for seven years to determine the onset of Alzheimer's
disease or other mental deficiencies. Thirteen leisure activities
were considered, including hobbies (e.g., stamp collecting);
walking; visiting friends or relatives; reading; going to
entertainment events; and playing games.
Risk for Alzheimer's or other dementias was decreased by
about 40% in those with high leisure-activity levels compared
to those with low activity levels. Also, Caucasians were 50%
less likely than African-Americans to develop dementia.
Continual learning and mental stimulation, as well as physical
activity and social interaction, help prevent deterioration
of the brain. Besides being fun, they can help prevent a variety
of mental and physical ailments.
Scarmeas N, Levy G, Tang MX, et al. Influence of leisure
activity on the incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Neurology
2001:57, pp. 2236-2242.
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