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Mental decline associated with aging is not inevitable. Modern research shows that intellectually active individuals have significantly lower chances of developing dementia.

Dementia was always considered as a plague of old age, a process associated with almost inevitable decline of mental activity as we age. Modern science finally started to identify the specific physiological and anatomical changes associated with dementia. With this information at hand, we can make some reasonable conclusions about what to do to avoid the mental decline later in life.

Dementia is very common

The term “Dementia” originates from the Latin ‘de’ which means apart and ‘mentis’ meaning mind. Dementia is a syndrome rather than a disease. It is characterized by a number of signs and symptoms such as loss of memory, language ability, concentration and problem solving ability. Dementia can be associated with various conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Around 5% of geriatric population (those older than 65 years of age) are believed to be affected by this condition. Globally, 35 million people are diagnosed with dementia, and the World Health Organization estimates that this number is going to rise to 115 million by the year 2050.

Mental Activity is the key to avoiding dementia

Dementia is often considered as a natural outcome of aging. However, the modern research evidences suggest that dementia and memory loss can be prevented and thinking ability can be maintained providing that active mental exercises are adopted early in life.

For instance, active reading is known to ensure the delayed onset of dementia symptoms.

This is not surprising considering the fact that brain behavior in old age is an expression of habits adopted during early childhood, teenage years and adult years.  Scientists have examined the brains of different people after death and found that those with dementia invariably had more plaques in the brain tissue, as compared to their relatively healthier counterparts.

Dementia and the age of retirement

Delaying retirement (and thus continuing an active life) seems to be important when it comes to delaying or minimizing the probability of dementia in the future. One of the most convincing scientific studies was conducted in France by Carole Dufuil and presented this year at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. The researcher has analyzed data from French healthcare insurer’s records and concluded that individuals retiring at the age of 65 were 14.6% less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than those retiring at 60. What adds the credibility to the conclusion is the fact that the study was conducted with a massive sample size of almost half a million people.

Continue reading after recommendations

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  • Fratiglioni L et al. (2004) An active and socially integrated lifestyle in late life might protect against dementia. The Lancet Neurology 3, 343 – 353
  • Snowdon DA (2003) Healthy Aging and Dementia: Findings from the Nun Study. Ann Internal Med 139, 450 – 454
  • Dufouil C (2013) Older age at retirement is associated with lower risk of dementia. Analysis of a healthcare insurance database of self – employed workers. Abstract AAIC2013_CDufouil. CME coverage pub Jul 15, 2013
  • Robert S. and Boyle, P.A. (2013) Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathological burden, and cognitive aging. Neurology 81, 314-321
  • Whalley, L.J. (2001) Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in Scotland: environmental and familial factors. The British Journal of Psychiatry 178, s53-s59.
  • Photo courtesy of Liam McHenry by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/liammch/6256497313/
  • Photo courtesy of Jason Ralston by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/jasonrphotography/2634754354/

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