Can reading really help keep Alzheimer’s at bay?
Recent research into Alzheimer’s and dementia has led to some very interesting findings. Of course, the more we know about these things the better. They may not be curable yet, but they can be prevented and managed by adapting your lifestyle and taking on new hobbies. But is it true that reading can really help to keep Alzheimer’s at bay?
The science behind it all
Alzheimer’s is caused by a communication breakdown between cells in the brain, affecting the person’s memory, mood, and behaviour. This communication breakdown occurs because small fragments of a protein called beta amyloid clump together and stick to neurons or nerve cells, which are both common channels of communication within the brain.
Researchers in the US found that less of these troublesome proteins were found in people who engaged in cognitively stimulating activities (i.e., reading, writing, playing games, etc). Older people who took part in these activities regularly had the same level of amyloids as younger people, showing that these kinds of hobbies really did help to prevent or slow down the effects of Alzheimer’s.
What kind of activities help?
Cognitively stimulating activities will help the most. In layman’s terms, this means activities that keep you mentally stimulated and active. For instance, reading, playing chess, doing crosswords and other mentally strenuous exercises helps; sitting and watching the TV does not. This is because mentally challenging tasks help to build brain cells and keep connections and communication as strong as possible as you age. It is worth noting that scientists suggest that these activities have the best effect when we’ve taken them on earlier in life. Simply deciding to read once you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will not have the same effect as it would had the individual been doing it for a long time.
Puzzles and board games can also help to keep the mind active and slow down the onset of Alzheimer’s. Chess, crosswords, and jigsaws have shown to significantly improve cognitive function. In fact, an American study revealed that those who read and play mentally-stimulating games are 2.5 times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. Even activities like gardening and knitting are shown to help!
What you can do
There are currently over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK, and this predicted to rise to a million in just 8 years’ time. We can help to slow this down by taking precautions now that will keep our minds active and alert for longer. A few activities you could take up are:
- Knitting or cross-stitch
Doing just one or two of these things more regularly will help to keep your brain communicating and functions for longer, therefore keeping Alzheimer’s at bay. It’s well worth the time and effort, and you might even enjoy it! Even something as small as reading for half an hour before bed, or going on a walk everyday will help to prevent Alzheimer’s from taking hold, so give it a go, or perhaps make it your New’s Year Resolution?