High IQ and Active Youth May Prevent Dementia
Study Shows Intelligence and Activities in Youth Lowers Risk of Dementia in Old Age
WebMD News Archive
July 8, 2005 -- Having a higher IQ or being active in your youth may
dramatically lower the risk of developing dementia when you're older.
A new study shows that men and women who had higher than average
intelligence or participated in a lot of extracurricular activities as high
school students were up to half as likely to develop dementia by the time they
reached their 70s.
Researchers say the results support the "reserve" theory of brain
aging. According to this theory, people whose brains contain a greater network
of interconnections from intelligence and extensive activity are able to
withstand a higher degree of brain damage before developing dementia.
They say the study suggests that early intelligence may be a sign of the
brain's reserve capacity, and involvement in activities may contribute to this
reserve and reduce the risk of dementia in later life.
Intelligence and Activity Reduce Dementia Risks
In the study, researchers looked at the relationship between intelligence
and activity levels in youth and the risk of dementia in later life in a group
of nearly 400 men and women who graduated from the same high school in the
1940s. The results appear in a recent issue of the Journal of the American
All of the participants underwent IQ (intelligence quotient) testing at
about age 15, and the IQ scores ranged from 79-149.
Researchers also measured the number of extracurricular activities the
students were involved in each year using information from their high school
yearbooks; that number ranged from zero to five.
The results showed that men and women who had a higher than average
intelligence were about half as likely to have dementia by their mid-70s.
In addition, those who participated in two or more activities per year had a
third lower risk of dementia compared with those who participated in fewer than
two activities per year.
Researchers say that although the risk of developing dementia may be greater
among those with lower intelligence, it also appears that adopting an active
lifestyle can help reduce this risk.