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Using a Computer, Social Activities Tied to Reduced Risk of Memory Decline

Keeping the brain active with social activities and using a computer may help older adults reduce their risk of developing memory and thinking problems, according to a study released recently that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 68th Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada, April 15 to 21, 2016.

"The results show the importance of keeping the mind active as we age," says study author Janina Krell-Roesch, PhD, with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, and member of the American Academy of Neurology. "While this study only shows association, not cause and effect, as people age, they may want to consider participating in activities like these because they may keep a mind healthier, longer."

For the study, researchers followed 1,929 people, aged 70 and older, who were part of the larger Mayo Clinic Study of Aging in Rochester, MN. The participants had normal memory and thinking abilities at recruitment to the study. They were then followed for an average of four years until they developed mild cognitive impairment or remained impairment-free.

Participants were asked about their engagement in mentally stimulating activities such as computer use, reading, crafting, and social activities within 12 months before participation in the study using a questionnaire. The investigators then wanted to know if participants who engaged in mental activities at least once per week had a lower risk for new onset of mild cognitive impairment as compared to those participants who did not engage in these activities.

The study found that people who used a computer once per week or more were 42% less likely to develop memory and thinking problems than those who did not. A total of 193 out of 1,077 people (17.9%) in the computer use group developed mild cognitive impairment, compared with 263 out of 852 (30.9%) people in the group that did not report computer use.

People who engaged in social activities were 23% less likely to develop memory problems than those who did not engage in social activities. A total of 154 out of 767 (20.1%) people in the social activities group developed problems, compared with 302 out of 1,162 (26.0%) people who did not participate in social activities.

People who reported reading magazines were 30% less likely to develop memory problems. Those who engaged in craft activities such as knitting were 16% less likely to develop memory problems. Similarly, those who played games were 14% less likely to develop memory problems.

Source: American Academy of Neurology