More Evidence That Education May Protect Against Dementia

Some forgetful older adults may get better with advanced language skills and a college degree, according to an ongoing study. There are lapses in memory and thinking problems in mild cognitive impairment (MCI) but they do not interfere with everyday life. Although some people with MCI return to normal after these early memory lapses, others develop dementia.

We found encouraging evidence that mild cognitive impairment does not necessarily lead to dementia, despite popular belief that it will. 

The study was written by Suzanne Tyas, associate professor of public health sciences at Waterloo University in Ontario.

Dementia risk can be predicted by education and language skills. Tyas said that these factors may be indicators of cognitive reserve because they represent exercise for the brain. However, it is not yet fully understood how cognitive reserve protects against dementia.

Among these mechanisms is neural compensation, which is where individuals with higher levels of cognitive reserve may be better able to compensate for cognitive changes that initially caused mild cognitive impairment by utilizing alternate brain networks,” Tyas stated.

Approximately 40% of the differences in cognitive ability between people by age 54 could be attributed to these factors. This is according to an analysis of data from more than 7,000 U.S. adults. A study published Wednesday in a scientific journal found that education was the primary factor affecting cognitive abilities such as memory, judgment, and focus. 

Over 20,000 participants have been tracked for more than 20 years by the University of Michigan’s health and retirement study. In addition to participant income, occupation, and education, the study’s database contains marital history, religion, depression, cognitive abilities, activity levels, smoking history, and body mass index. 

They analyzed the data from 7,068 adults aged 54 to 65 in 1996, and then again 20 years later. A professor of sociology and co-author of the study, Hui Zheng, believes having a college degree may lead to a career that makes you use your brain more in your 50s.

Mentally stimulating jobs use your brain constantly, so you’re lucky,” he said. “The more challenging your job, the better.” 

Here’s How To Keep Your Mind Sharp

Other ways to stimulate your brain weren’t covered in the study. Many people can’t afford college, but there are some other ways to keep their minds sharp. 

Here are some tips:

  • Attend a community college or community center for classes on topics you’re interested in.
  • Become a better artist, learn a new language. 
  • Learn to dance. You can learn choreography by trying to remember it.
  • It’s good for your brain.
  •  Take part in music-related activities. Music stimulates neurons in a variety of brain areas, resulting in higher levels of functional connectivity. In a study, familiar music was found to stimulate memories and reduce stress levels in participants.
  • Make sure you are doing crossword puzzles or brain teasers on a daily basis.
  • Consider playing a card game that requires you to have superior memory and strategy skills.
  • Take time to observe your surroundings in detail. As you listen to someone speak to you, keep an eye out for what they are wearing, the color of their eyes, and their facial expressions.
  • Learn new words. Look up new words and use them at least five times in a sentence the next day when you encounter them.

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