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[CHANGE IT UP] Participating in a variety of activities could curb dementia risk

Researchers at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia found that engaging in a combination of hobbies, such as light exercise and connecting with loved ones, can reduce memory decline in adults between the ages of 65 and 89 more than any individual activity.

The findings show that the effects of engaging in a combination of activities increased with age and was more impactful than historical factors such as education level or baseline memory.

The authors studied data from 3,210 participants aged 65 to 89 enrolled in the US National Institute on Aging's Health and Retirement Study. Participants were asked how often they engaged in 33 activities: from "never" to "at least once a month" to "several times a month" up to "daily."

The researchers created a machine learning model to analyze the activities' impact on memory. The activities ranged from hobbies such as baking or cooking, reading, playing cards and games to walking for 20 minutes, or socializing with family and friends through letters, email, phone calls or in-person visits.

"Scientists believed that genetics were the main factor influencing cognitive health but our findings show the reverse," said study co-author Sylvain Moreno. "With age, your choice of daily activities is more important than your genetics or your current cognitive skills."

The researchers suggest their study results could have a significant impact on aging health policies, including promoting new social prescribing programs to help older adults keep mentally active. Social prescribing involves connecting older adults to a range of activities in the community such as gardening, art classes or volunteering.

To read the full article, published in Aging, click here

 

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