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Use It or Lose It: Mental Stimulation Lowers Alzheimer’s Risk


Man Doing Crossword Brain function — use it or lose it. This is what the results of a new study emphatically indicate. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered that a lifetime of engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as reading, writing and playing games, may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Such intellectual activity was found to significantly deter the formation of plaque in the brain, which is the hallmark characteristic of this disease.

While prior research had suggested this link between an active mind and lower risk, the new study’s results are more specific. It determines that mental activity markedly affects the main pathological process thought to cause the disease. This finding could have implications for the future development of prevention strategies. Lead author, Dr. William Jagust, states cognitive therapies could play an important role in reducing risk, if they are employed before the symptoms appear, The Sydney Morning Herald notes.

This research, published in Archives of Neurology, underscore that the effects of mental stimulation are pronounced rather than negligible. Those older participants of the study who were the most intellectually active had plaque levels of a person one fourth their age, but those who were intellectual couch potatoes had brains that resembled those of Alzheimer’s patients, even though their cognitive functions were intact. This evidence corroborates the use-it-or-lose-it results found in earlier studies.

Exactly how does mental exercise help the brain? Researchers suggest that it fosters more efficient neural processing, which in turn affects the secretion of the substance that forms the harmful plaque.

One of the interesting results of the study was the fact that the mental activity needs to be a lifelong habit. The characteristic of participants that proved to be a predictor of plaque levels was regular mental exercise between the ages of 6 and 40. This predictor was not seen in participants who engaged in intellectual stimulation merely at the time of the study. However, Jagust emphasizes that there is no downside to intellectual stimulation at any age, UC Berkeley News Center relays. He elaborates that it can only be an advantage, rendering benefits to individuals in various ways, including social aspects.

Results from this research provide more motivation for people to work puzzles and visit libraries, as well as read books and newspapers. As Alzheimer’s affects a large portion of the American populace, an estimated 5.4 million, it is encouraging to know that proactive measures can make a difference.

The authors caution that although cognitive activity exerts a significant effect, it is only one of a cluster of lifestyle practices, such as diet and physical exercise, associated with Alzheimer’s that should be explored in further research. They go on to explain that the disease is also influenced by factors beyond a person’s control, such as genes and aging.

The moral of the story that we can all take to heart is not to be a mental couch potato.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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