Variety of Activities Helps Prevent Alzheimer's
Combining Gardening, Chores, and Walking Helps Preserve Brain Cells
April 15, 2005 - Being active has been associated with a decreased risk of
dementia. And some studies find that being active may reduce the risk of Now a new study suggests that it's not how much activity
but how many activities a person engages in that reduces their risk.
The key may be getting involved in a wide variety of activities, from
gardening and household chores to walking, say researchers.
Constantine G. Lyketsos, MD, found that older people who participated in
various activities were less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease and other
types of dementia.
"We don't yet know why this association exists or what causes it. It
could well be that maintaining a variety of activities keeps more parts of the
brain active, or that this variety reflects better engagement in both physical
and social activities," says Lyketsos, professor of psychiatry and
behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a news
More Activities, Less Dementia
Researchers evaluated more than 3,300 people age 65 and over for a wide
variety of activities including walking, household chores, yard work, hiking,
dancing, bowling, and golfing as well as regular exercise, such as jogging and
Walking and household chores were the most common activities. About
one-third were active in gardening, yard work, or an organized exercise
The participants were followed for about six years, with 14% developing
dementia during that time.
Being involved in a wider variety of activities was associated with a lower
risk of developing Alzheimer's or other types of dementia.
Compared to people involved in one or no activity:
- Being involved in two or three activities decreased the risk by about
- Being involved in four activities decreased the risk by nearly 40%
The study appears in the April 1 issue of the American Journal of
How Activity Protects the Brain
A supports the view
that physical activity can help maintain memory and mental function. According
to the researchers, activity may:
- Increase nerve connections in the brain or release hormones that increase
nerve cell creation.
- Lower risk factors for heart disease, such as cholesterol and blood
pressure. This may help preserve nerve cells in the brain and mental
- Be linked to a more enriched social environment. Previous research has
An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, according to
the Alzheimer's Association. The number has doubled since 1980, they say, and
it's expected to grow significantly as the U.S. population ages.
According to the researchers, the only known risk factors for Alzheimer's
- Advancing age
- Family history of Alzheimer's
- Education level. People with lower education are more likely to get
- Having an Alzheimer's gene, called ApoE e4. In the current study, people
with this gene did not gain any protection from Alzheimer's by being involved
in various activities.
have also been suggested as a cause of Alzheimer's.