Leisure Activity May Lower Alzheimer Risk
NEW YORK (Reuters Health)
- Reading, going to the movies, walking and other leisure activities
may lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according
to the results of a new study.
Staying active is no guarantee that a person will not develop
Alzheimer's, but leisure activities do seem to at least delay
symptoms of the disease, the study's lead author told Reuters
Health in an interview.
``Elderly people who engaged in more leisure activities had a
reduced risk of developing Alzheimer's disease'' in this study,
said Dr. Yaakov Stern of Columbia University in New York.
After taking into account factors such as ethnicity, education
and occupation, Stern and his colleagues found that elderly people
who engaged in several leisure activities had a 38% lower risk
of developing dementia.
Reading, visiting with friends or relatives, going to the movies
or restaurants and walking for pleasure were several of the activities
that were most strongly linked to a reduced risk of dementia,
the researchers report in the December 26th issue of the journal
Intellectual activities, such as reading, had the greatest impact
on reducing the risk of Alzheimer's symptoms, but social and physical
activities also had significant effects, the report indicates.
Still, staying active does not guarantee that a person will not
develop Alzheimer's disease, Stern cautioned.
``We don't think that people who are more active will never get
it,'' he said. Instead, it is possible that very active people
are better able to deal with Alzheimer's-related changes in the
brain, Stern explained. Whether these changes lead to noticeable
symptoms may be influenced by leisure activities, according to
the New York researcher.
The appearance of dementia may depend ``on how well the brain
copes'' with changes caused by Alzheimer's, he said. Stern noted
that higher educational level has been shown to have a similar
effect as leisure activities.
Should people start leisure activities to protect themselves
from Alzheimer's? According to Stern, there is no way to know
whether adding more activities will help prevent the disease.
It is possible, he pointed out, that participation in fewer leisure
activities may reflect the earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease.
But ``it's great to be active,'' Stern said, noting that leisure
activities may bring health benefits other than protecting against
Stern and his colleagues based the findings on 1,772 people aged
65 and older living in New York City.
At the start of the study none of the participants had dementia
symptoms. By the end of up to 7 years of follow-up, 207 had developed
dementia--most with ``probable'' or ``possible'' Alzheimer's disease.
SOURCE: Neurology 2001;57:2236-2242.
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