Study: You Can Delay Alzheimer’s Disease

by Matilda Charles


You can forestall dementia by many years by staying mentally engaged and

challenged, according to a long-term Mayo Clinic study.


The study began in 2004 with nearly 2,000 participants ranging in age

from 70 to 89 years old. Most of them had no dementia, and nearly 300 had

mild cognitive impairment. The study focused on the role of the subjects’

previous education, occupation and life enrichment.


After a baseline measurement was taken, participants in the study followed

an “intellectual enrichment program” and were periodically re-evaluated

for functioning, memory, cognitive skills and language.


Lifelong intellectual enrichment was seen as a protective strategy to

delay cognitive impairment by nearly 9 years. This was true even in

those participants who carry the APOE4 gene, which is a risk factor for

Alzheimer’s disease.


Specifically, cognitive impairment was delayed 8.7 years in those with

high lifetime enrichment. Higher education alone brought a five-year

delay. For those who carry the APOE4 gene, even beginning cognitive

activity late in life brought three years of delay. Late beginning for

those without the gene brought seven years of delay.


Staying mentally engaged and stretching our brains can even help those of

us who didn’t have higher education or challenging occupations, or who

carry the APOE4 gene.


Here are some suggestions: Take a few art classes, or try arts and crafts.

Did you play a musical instrument as a child? Take lessons again. Read.

Dip into authors and topics you haven’t explored before. Play games you

enjoy, and learn new ones. Try video games! Do a crossword puzzle every

day. Sign up for classes at the senior center.


While there’s no sure-fire cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease,

these studies show ways we can help ourselves.


Matilda Charles regrets that she cannot personally answer reader

questions, but will incorporate them into her column whenever possible.


Send email to

(c) 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.

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