WEDNESDAY, July 10, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Among community-dwelling older persons, engaging in a higher number of mentally stimulating activities, particularly in late life, is associated with a lower risk for developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), according to a study published online July 10 in Neurology.

Janina Krell-Roesch, Ph.D., from the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona, and colleagues used data from the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging in Olmsted County, Minnesota (2,000 individuals aged ≥70 years who were cognitively unimpaired at baseline and followed for a median of five years) to assess whether stimulating activities in midlife and late life are associated with the risk for incident cognitive impairment. The five mentally stimulating activities that were evaluated included reading books, computer use, social activities, playing games, and craft activities.

The researchers found that the risk for incident MCI was significantly lower for participants who engaged in social activities (hazard ratio [HR], 0.80) and playing games (HR, 0.80) in both late life and midlife combined. There was a lower risk for MCI associated with using a computer, regardless of timing (not late life but midlife: HR, 0.52; late life but not midlife: HR, 0.70; late life and midlife: HR, 0.63). When carried out in late life, craft activities were associated with a reduced risk for incident MCI (HR, 0.58). Engaging in a higher number of activities in late life was associated with a significantly reduced risk for incident MCI (any two activities: HR, 0.72; any three: HR, 0.55; any four: HR, 0.44; all five: HR, 0.57).

“There are currently no drugs that effectively treat mild cognitive impairment, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease, so there is growing interest in lifestyle factors that may help slow brain aging believed to contribute to thinking and memory problems — factors that are low cost and available to anyone,” a coauthor said in a statement.

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