44-year study: participating in these activities reduces the risk of dementia by half

Mental activity and physical activity are independently associated with a lower risk of dementia. 

Both our common sense and a lot of medical research tend to agree that exercise and thinking can reduce the risk of dementia. 

However, at present, most of the subjects are usually the elderly, and the follow-up observation time is also relatively short. For young and middle-aged, how to learn from? 

A recent 44-year study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, looked at the association between five broad categories of thinking and a variety of physical activity and the risk of dementia in later life.

44-year study: participating in these activities reduces the risk of dementia by half
44-year study: participating in these activities reduces the risk of dementia by half

The team from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, recruited 800 middle-aged women aged 38 to 54 (mean age 47) in 1968 and followed them until 2012. 

Over the past 44 years, psychiatrists and nurses have conducted neuropsychiatric examinations on a number of occasions to determine their level of health. 

At the beginning of the study, the researchers assessed the level of activity of the women in both mental and physical activity. 

The research focuses on five broad categories of thinking activities: intelligence, art, craftsmanship, community and religious activities. Depending on the frequency of participation in each type of activity, the subjects were given a score of 0 to 2. 

For example, the following activities are of moderate intensity: 

  • I’ve been reading a book (intelligence) for the past six months. 
  • In the past six months, I have gone to a concert, drama or art exhibition (art). 
  • Sewing in the past six months, or gardening in the past year (handwork). 
  • Be an ordinary member of a club (a club). 
  • Been to church (religion) several times in the past year. 

The higher the frequency of these women’s participation in activities, the higher the score. The highest score was 10 points and the lowest was 0 points. Based on the scores, the researchers divided the women into two cognitive activity groups: 0 to 2 (44 percent) and 3 to 10 (56 percent).

Reading a book every six months is a moderate level of intellectual activity, which is not difficult to achieve.
Reading a book every six months is a moderate level of intellectual activity, which is not difficult to achieve.

The women were also assessed by the Saltin-Grimby sports activity level scale. People who take at least four hours of walking, gardening, bowling, cycling and other activities per week, or run and swim several times a week (82%) are classified as ” active in sports activities” group. Those who are sedentary and often watch TV and movies in their spare time will be classified as ” inactive in sports”.

In 44 years of follow-up observation, 194 people were diagnosed with dementia, of which 102 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, 27 with vascular dementia, 41 with mixed dementia, and 81 with cerebrovascular diseases. The average time from admission study to onset of dementia was 31.5 years, and the average age of onset was 79.8 years.

After adjusting for age, educational level, socioeconomic status, smoking, other chronic diseases and mental health factors, the statistics show that,Women who engage in more cognitive activities are less likely to suffer from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with 34% and 46% reduction respectively.Although the association between sports activities and Alzheimer’s disease is not obviousWomen who regularly participate in sports have a 53% lower risk of dementia with cerebrovascular diseases and a 57% lower risk of mixed dementia.

Considering that subjects diagnosed with dementia earlier (before 1990) may belong to pre-clinical dementia at the time of study, after eliminating these 21 more extreme data, the results have not changed much, but the association between sports activities and dementia risk has become stronger.The risk of dementia of all types was reduced by 33% for people who took more sports.

In addition,Thinking activities and sports activities are independently related to lower risk of dementia.In other words, only one of the two activities is related to reducing the risk of dementia.

However, this study also has some limitations. For example, the data of dementia diagnosis are obtained from hospitals, and the data of subjects suffering from dementia may not be complete. The frequency of cognitive and sports activities is also reported by the subjects themselves, which may deviate from the actual activity data.

The author of the study, Dr. Jenna Najar of the University of Gothenburg, said that the significance of the study lies in the length of follow-up over 40 years. ” Low activity level may be the early symptoms of dementia, so long-term observation is very important. The results show that,These activities may help maintain cognitive health and prevent dementia in the elderly.And all the research involveddaily activitiesPeople don’t need to pay too much extra for this. “

After reading this research, do you have more plans for your leisure life? For the sake of hearing and seeing for the elderly, try to enrich your life with other kinds of activities. However, it is not recommended to follow the drama and watch movies.


[1] Najar et al. (2019) Cognitive and physical activity and dementia: A 44-year longitudinal population study of women. Neurology, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000007021

[2] Midlife activities linked to Alzheimer’s, dementia. Retrieved Feb 26, 2019 from https://www.medpagetoday.com/neurology/dementia/78131

[3] Keeping active in middle age may be tied to lower risk of dementia. Retrieved Feb 26, 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-02-middle-age-tied-dementia.html

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Erik Gans says:

    Apart from activities, getting sufficient amount of sleep is also important. A very well written article

    1. howtobehealth.net says:

      Thank you for your reply! Have a good day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *