Studies have demonstrated that engaging in both physical and mental activities can prevent dementia and maintain cognitive function. According to a recent study, these advantages can differ for men and women. The research has been published online in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
The study examined the impact of physical and mental activities on cognitive reserve in the domains of thinking speed and memory, such as reading, attending classes, playing cards, or playing games. Cognitive reserve is the protective mechanism that keeps people's mental faculties sharp even when their brains exhibit the underlying abnormalities linked to dementia and cognitive impairment.
The author of the study Judy Pa, PhD, of the University of California, San Diego, stated that she and her team discovered that higher levels of physical activity were linked to higher levels of thinking speed reserve in women but not in men. More mental activity was linked to increased reserves of thinking speed in both men and women.
Both men and women who were more physically active did not have greater memory reserves.
The study's 758 participants had an average age of 76. Some individuals had dementia while others had dementia with modest cognitive impairment. Along with taking memory and thinking-speed tests, the subjects had brain scans. The total volume of the hippocampus, a significant brain region affected by Alzheimer's disease, as well as other alterations in the brain linked to dementia were compared to people's performance on thinking tests to determine cognitive reserve.
A question about people's typical weekly physical activity was also asked of them. They were questioned regarding their participation in three different sorts of mental activity over the previous 13 months, including reading magazines, newspapers, or books; attending classes; and playing cards, games, or bingo. For a total of three points, they might receive one point for each category of action.
Participants scored 1.4 points on average for mental activity. Participants engaged in vigorous physical exercises, such as brisk walking and riding, for at least 15 minutes every week on average.
According to Pa, every additional mental activity persons engaged in prevented their thinking and processing skills from ageing by 13 years, or 17 years for males and 10 years for women.
"Prevention is essential because there are debatably few to no viable treatments for Alzheimer's disease. Pa once said, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's quite thrilling to see that people may possibly increase their cognitive reserve by making small changes like attending community centre classes, playing bingo with friends, or spending more time walking or gardening.
According to Pa, a doubling of physical activity would be equivalent to an estimated 2.75 fewer years of ageing when it comes to women's processing speed and reasoning skills, based on the effect sizes shown in the study.
Researchers also investigated if the APOE e4 gene, which has the highest risk for Alzheimer's disease, had an impact on the connection between mental and physical exercise and cognitive reserve. They discovered that carrying the gene in women decreases the benefits of the connection between mental and physical exercise and cognitive reserve.
The study does not establish a link between increased cognitive reserve and physical or mental exercise. Only an association is displayed.